Mental Health Among Mothers and Fathers Who Borrow to Pay for Their Child's College Education

Katrina M. Walsemann , University of South Carolina
Jennifer A. Ailshire, University of Southern California
Caroline Hartnett, University of South Carolina

More parents are borrowing to help their children pay for college. These loans may be a source of financial stress and worry, which could, in turn, impact parents’ mental health. Our study investigates if child-related educational debt is associated with poorer mental health among parents and if fathers are more sensitive to this debt than mothers, given potential gender differences in who oversees the household finances and who is responsible for maintaining relationships with adult children. Data come from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, a nationally representative sample of persons born between 1957 and 1964. We restricted our sample to parents whose biological child(ren) attended college and were interviewed at age 50, when mental health was assessed (n=3,545). Acquiring any child-related educational debt was associated with better mental health among fathers, but as the amount borrowed increased, fathers reported worse mental health. No relationship was found among mothers.

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session 19. Families, Health, and Well-being