Empty nest syndrome may not be bad after all, study finds

Feb 21, 2008

One day they are crawling, the next day they are driving and then suddenly they aren’t kids anymore. As children reach adulthood, the parent-child relationship changes as parents learn to adapt to newly independent children. A new study by a University of Missouri professor explored the differences in how mothers and fathers interacted with their young adult children. She found there were few differences in the way mothers and fathers felt and that many of the changes were positive, despite the perception that mothers in particular fall apart and experience the so-called empty nest syndrome.

“As children age, direct caretaking and influence diminish, and children are often seen by their parents as peers with whom they are have continuing relationships,” said Christine Proulx, assistant professor of human development and family studies in the College of Human Environmental Sciences. “Although our between-families results suggest these patterns of change and continuity differ by parent and child gender, our within-family analyses suggest important similarities among mothers and fathers within the same family.”

Of most concern to the parents in the study were firstborns’ independence, time spent together and role patterns. The study found that generally fathers and mothers reported similar changes in the parent-child relationship during their child’s movements into young adulthood. Both fathers and mothers reported differences in independence/maturity of the child, closeness/openness in the relationship, contact/time spent together and changes in role pattern.

Another change reported by parents was relating more like peers and having more adult-like interactions with their young adult child than in prior years. Other parents reported acting more like a mentor and giving advice to their children rather than demands.

Some of the things that remained the same in the parent-child relationship were providing financial assistance and continuing to be a mentor to their young adult child. Few parents in the study reported changes in emotional support to the children.

“The within-family analysis suggests that mothers and fathers in the same families in our study rarely reported divergent experiences with their young adult sons and daughters,” Proulx said. “Overwhelmingly, the examination of mothers’ and fathers’ responses revealed similarities in mothers’ and fathers’ experiences as parents to their young adult child.”

The study interviewed 142 sets of parents with firstborn young adult sons and daughters and was published in the Journal of Family Issues.

Source: University of Missouri-Columbia

Explore further: What I learned from debating science with trolls

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Dolphins and whales experience pleasure

7 hours ago

Sam Ridgway has spent most of his life learning about dolphins and whales. Over his five-decade career he has asked these cetaceans various questions, including how deep they can dive and how depth affects ...

Minke whales lunge 100 times per hour to feed under sea ice

7 hours ago

Highly manoeuvrable and built like torpedoes, minke whales are the most common whales in Antarctic waters, yet the animals could be living on a knife edge as their sea-ice homes dwindle rapidly. 'Sea ice in the area around ...

Cisco to cut 6,000 jobs in streamlining

7 hours ago

US computer networking giant Cisco Systems said Wednesday it plans to slash some 6,000 jobs, or eight percent of its global workforce in the coming year.

Report: NSA eyed preset strikes in cyberattacks

8 hours ago

The National Security Agency secretly planned a cyberwarfare program that could automatically fire back at cyberattacks from foreign countries without any human involvement, creating the risk of accidentally ...

Recommended for you

What I learned from debating science with trolls

1 hour ago

I often like to discuss science online and I'm also rather partial to topics that promote lively discussion, such as climate change, crime statistics and (perhaps surprisingly) the big bang. This inevitably ...

Activists urge EU to scrap science advisor job

22 hours ago

Nine major charities urged the European Commission on Tuesday to scrap a science advisor position it says puts too much power over sensitive policy into the hands of one person.

More to a skilled ear in music

Aug 15, 2014

The first pilot study in Australia to give musicians the skills and training to critically assess music by what they hear rather than what they see begins this month at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.The study aims to ...

User comments : 0