Featured Articles Fall 2009

Increasing the Acceptability of HIV Counseling and Testing with Three C's: Convenience, Confidentiality and Credibility
Nicole Angotti, Agatha Bula, Lauren Gaydosh, Eitan Zeev Kimchi, Rebecca L. Thornton, and Sara E. Yeatman
Social Science & Medicine 68:2263-70, 2009
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Abstract: Agencies engaged in humanitarian efforts to prevent the further spread of HIV have emphasized the importance of voluntary counseling and testing (VCT), and most high-prevalence countries now have facilities that offer testing free of charge. The utilization of these services is disappointingly low, however, despite high numbers reporting that they would like to be tested. Explanations of this discrepancy typically rely on responses to hypothetical questions posed in terms of psychological or social barriers; often, the explanation is that people fear learning that they are infected with a disease that they understand to be fatal and stigmatizing. Yet when we offered door-to-door rapid blood testing for HIV as part of a longitudinal study in rural Malawi, the overwhelming majority agreed to be tested and to receive their results immediately. Thus, in this paper, we ask: why are more people not getting tested? Using an explanatory research design, we find that rural Malawians are responsive to door-to-door HIV testing for the following reasons: it is convenient, confidential, and the rapid blood test is credible. Our study suggests that attention to these factors in VCT strategies may mitigate the fear of HIV testing, and ultimately increase uptake in rural African settings.

Transition to High School as a Development Process Among Multiethnic Urban Youth
Aprile D. Benner and Sandra Graham
Child Development 80(2):356-376, 2009
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Abstract: The high school transition was examined in an ethnically diverse, urban sample of 1,979 adolescents, followed from 7th to 10th grade (Mage = 14.6, SD = .37 in 7th grade). Twice annually, data were gathered on adolescents' perceptions of school climate, psychological functioning, and academic behaviors. Piecewise growth modeling results indicate that adolescents were doing well before the transition but experienced transition disruptions in psychological functioning and grades, and many continued to struggle across high school. The immediate experience of the transition appeared to be particularly challenging for African American and Latino students when the numerical representation of their ethnic groups declined significantly from middle to high school. Findings highlight the value of examining the transition in a larger developmental context and the importance of implementing transition support.

Change in Disability-Free Life Expectancy for Americans 70 Years Old and Older
Eileen M. Crimmins, Mark D. Hayward, Aarron Hagedorn, Yasuhiko Saito, and Nicolas Brouard
Demography 46(3):627-646, 2009
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Abstract: In this article, we examine changes in life expectancy free of disability using longitudinal data collected from 1984 through 2000 from two cohorts who composed the Longitudinal Studies of Aging I and II. Life expectancies with and without ADL and/or IADL disability are calculated using a Markov-based multistate life table approach. At age 70, disability-free life expectancy increased over a 10-year period by 0.6 of a year in the later cohort, which was the same as the increase in total life expectancy, both increases marginally statistically significant. The average length of expected life with IADL and ADL disability did not change. Changes in disability-free life expectancy resulted from decreases in disability incidence and increases in the incidence of recovery from disability across the two survey cohorts. Age-specific mortality among the ADL disabled declined significantly in the later cohort after age 80. Mortality for the IADL disabled and the nondisabled did not change significantly. Those with ADL disability at age 70 experienced substantial increases in both total life expectancy and disability-free life expectancy. These results indicate the importance of efforts both to prevent and delay disability and to promote recovery from disability for increasing life expectancy without disability. Results also indicate that while reductions in incidence and increases in recovery work to decrease population prevalence of disability, declining mortality among the disabled has been a force toward increasing disability prevalence.

Alternate Models of Sibling Status Effects on Health in Later Life
Toni Falbo, Sunghun Kim, and Kuan-yi Chen
Developmental Psychology 45(3):677-687, 2009
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Abstract: Although siblings are thought to be influential in child development, little is known about the influence of sibling status on the health of older adults. Using structural equation modeling, the authors created and tested a series of models with data from a sample (N = 3,968) of 1957 high school graduates from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. The results indicated that socioeconomic status of origin, adolescent aptitude, and educational attainment did have significant total effects on health in later life, but sibling status did not. Adults who grew up in families of higher socioeconomic status and who had greater aptitude in high school attained more education, and this advantage, in turn, led to better health in later life. Although the final model was cross-validated, it was not equally plausible for men and women.

Is the Apparent U-Shape of Well-Being Over the Life Course a Result of Inappropriate Use of Control Variables? A Commentary on Blanchflower and Oswald
Norval Glenn
Social Science & Medicine 69:481-485, 2009
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Abstract: In their article in this journal "Is well-being U-shaped over the life cycle?" Blanchflower and Oswald (Blanchflower, D.G., & Oswald, A.J. (2008). Is well-being U-shaped over the life cycle? Social Science & Medicine, 66, 1733-1749) report the results of an ambitious cross-national study of age and well-being and conclude that in most societies studied the well-being of adults tends to be high in young adulthood and old age and lowest around age 40. I argue that the appearance of this U-shaped curve of well-being is the result of the use of inappropriate and questionable control variables. The most clearly inappropriate control variable is marital status, the control of which to a large extent accounts for the U-shaped curve. Most researchers who have studied the relationship between being married and being happy believe that happiness affects marital status (happier people are more likely to marry and stay married), and of course a variable that is affected by the dependent variable should not be included as a control variable in a simple recursive model. Such control variables as income and education are suspect because the relationship between them and well-being is likely to be partially spurious, and such variables as race and whether or not persons lived with both parents at age 16 should not be controlled, because they cannot affect or be affected by age. Finally, year of survey should not be controlled because of the age-period-cohort conundrum, which makes including age, period, and cohort all as predictor variables in a regression inappropriate (and impossible if the three variables are measured precisely and comparably). The only clearly appropriate control variable is birth cohort, and when only it is controlled, the regression data become estimates of how the well-being of persons has actually changed as they have gone through the life course. I argue that such estimates are much more useful than the counterfactual abstractions provided by Blanchflower and Oswald (Blanchflower, D.G., & Oswald, A.J. (2008). Is well-being U-shaped over the life cycle? Social Science & Medicine, 66, 1733-1749), and I conclude that those authors (or someone else) could make a very important contribution by redoing their analyses with birth cohort as the only control variable. I do that with the American happiness data and find that the results do not come close to the U-shaped pattern.

Parent-Child Acculturation, Parenting,  and Adolescent Depressive Symptoms in Chinese Immigrant Families
Su Yeong Kim and Qi Chen
Journal of Family Psychology 23(3):426-437, 2009
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Abstract: Using a sample of 388 father-adolescent and 399 mother-adolescent dyads in Chinese immigrant families, the current investigation tested Portes and Rumbaut's (1996) assertion that generational dissonance may indicate a family context that places children at increased risk for adverse outcomes. Study findings suggest that a high discrepancy in father-adolescent acculturation levels relates significantly to more adolescent depressive symptoms. The study further demonstrates that the quality of the parenting relationship between fathers and adolescents operates as a mediator between father-adolescent acculturation discrepancy and adolescent depressive symptoms. Specifically, a high level of discrepancy in American orientation between fathers and adolescents is associated with unsupportive parenting practices, which, in turn, are linked to more adolescent depressive symptoms. These relationships are significant even after controlling for the influence of family socioeconomic status and parents' and adolescents' sense of discrimination within the larger society.

Why is the Educational Gradient of Mortality Steeper for Men?
Jennifer Karas Montez, Mark D. Hayward, Dustin C. Brown, and Robert A. Hummer
The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 64B(5):625-634, 2009
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Abstract: Objectives It is often documented that the educational gradient of mortality is steeper for men than for women; yet, the explanation remains a matter of debate. We examine gender differences in the gradients within the context of marriage to determine whether overall differences reflect gender differences in health behaviors or a greater influence of men's education on spousal health. Methods We used data from the 1986 through 1996 National Health Interview Survey Linked Mortality Files for non-Hispanic White adults aged 55-84 years at the time of survey. We estimated Cox proportional hazards models to examine the gradients (N  = 180,208). Results The educational gradient of mortality is marginally steeper for men than for women when aggregating across marital statuses; yet, this reflects a steeper gradient among unmarried men, with low-educated never married men exhibiting high levels of mortality. The gradient among unmarried men is steeper than unmarried women for causes that share smoking as a major risk factor, supporting a behavioral explanation for differences in the gradient. No gender difference in the gradient is observed for married adults. Discussion Low education and unmarried status exert a synergistic effect on men's mortality. Unmarried, low-educated men may lack social supports that encourage positive health behaviors.

Absolute Change in Cause Specific Infant Mortality in the U.S.: 1983-2002
Daniel A. Powers and Seung-eun Song
Population Research and Policy Review 28:817-851, 2009
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Abstract: This paper examines absolute change in infant mortality from 5 leading causes of death for whites and blacks over a 20 year period. Change in infant mortality varies by cause, race, and birth weight. Absolute decline in mortality from respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in the overall study population has been more rapid for black infants during the period after specific technological innovations were approved and behavioral practices were recommended for these conditions. For low birth weight infants, blacks experienced greater decline in mortality from SIDS and whites experienced greater decline in RDS mortality. Despite remarkable declines in mortality from these causes, relative racial disparities have increased over this time period. For the overall study population, blacks and whites experienced similar rates of mortality decline from congenital anomalies. Mortality decline from this cause among low birth weight infants occurred at a faster pace for whites. Mortality from causes for which no specific innovations were developed increased for blacks but remained relatively constant for whites. An analysis of absolute change complements the relative disparities approach by revealing the dynamics of change, thus providing a more complete understanding of changing racial disparities in infant mortality.

Multivariate Decomposition for Hazard Rate Models
Daniel A. Powers and Myeong-Su Yun
Sociological Methodology 39:233-263, 2009
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Abstract: We develop a regression decomposition technique for hazard rate models, where the difference in observed rates is decomposed into components attributable to group differences in characteristics and group differences in effects. The baseline hazard is specified using a piecewise constant exponential model, which leads to convenient estimation based on a Poisson regression model fit to person-period, or split-episode data. This specification allows for a flexible representation of the baseline hazard and provides a straightforward way to introduce time-varying covariates and time-varying effects. We provide computational details underlying the method and apply the technique to the decomposition of the black-white difference in first premarital birth rates into components reflecting characteristics and effect contributions of several predictors, as well as the effect contribution attributable to race differences in the baseline hazard.

Religious Affiliation, Ethnicity and Child Mortality in Chiapas, México
Eunice Vargas Valle, Leticia Fernandez, and Joseph E. Potter
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 48(3):588-603, 2009
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Abstract: We investigate whether there is a relationship between religious affiliation and child mortality among indigenous and nonindigenous groups in Chiapas, México. Our analysis relies on Brass-type estimates of child mortality by ethnicity and religious affiliation and multivariate analyses that adjust for various socioeconomic and demographic factors. The data are from the 2000 Mexican Census 10 percent sample. Among indigenous people, Presbyterians have lower rates of child mortality than Catholics. However, no significant differentials are found in child mortality by religious affiliation among nonindigenous people. The indigenous health ministry of the Presbyterian Church and the social and cultural transformations that tend to accompany religious conversion may have an impact on child survival among disadvantaged populations such as the indigenous people in Chiapas.