Aging and Family Relationships among Aymara, Mapuche and Non-Indigenous People: Exploring How Social Support, Family Functioning, and Self-Perceived Health Are Related to Quality of Life

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Family relationships play a central role in wellbeing among older adults in Chile. Based on the theory of social production functions, this study examined the relationship between perceived social support from children, partners and relatives, family functioning, self-perceived health and quality of life (QoL) among Chilean older adults. The study used a multi-ethnic sample of Chilean older adults living in rural areas in the regions of Arica and Parinacota (north) and Araucanía (south). A model was analyzed that emphasizes relationships differentiated by the source of support, family functioning and self-perceived health in the explanation of QoL. The results obtained from the structural equation modelling (SEM) analysis showed the existence of indirect relationships of social support from children, partners and other family members via family functioning, while self-perceived health was directly associated with QoL. The findings indicate that family functioning is a main variable in the contrasted model, in addition to confirming the importance of distinguishing the role of the various sources of support. Research is needed to examine in detail intergenerational relationships and other relationships with family members who are significant in the wellbeing of older adults. This research corroborates that family relationships have a specificity that needs to be addressed in gerontological social intervention, as well as continuing along the lines of strengthening or improving existing family ties (more quality) over the quantity of social relationships.