Parents' mental health more likely to suffer when a grown child struggles

Aug 12, 2010

Even into adulthood, problem children continue to give their parents heartache, and it doesn't matter if other children in the family grow up to be successful, according to a new study of middle-aged parents.

"What this study finds is that the may have their own lives and moved on, but their ups and downs are still deeply affecting their parents," psychology professor Karen Fingerman, PhD, said Thursday at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. Fingerman, of Purdue University, presented her findings at a symposium focusing on social relationships and well-being.

For this study, 633 middle-aged parents in the Philadelphia area rated each of their grown children's achievements in relationships, family life, education and career. They were asked to rate each child's successes compared to other adults the same age. Most parents had more than one child so there were reports of 1,251 grown children included in the study.

Parents also answered questions about their own psychological well-being, what kind of relationship they had with their children, and whether each of their children had experienced specific physical, emotional, lifestyle and behavioral problems. Lifestyle and behavioral problems included: trouble with the law, drinking or drug problems, and serious relationships problems. They also considered if each child's problems were deemed involuntary, such as a health issue, and controlled for them within the study.

The research found 68 percent of parents had at least one grown child suffering at least one problem in the last two years. Close to 49 percent of parents said at least one of their children was highly successful. The majority of parents, 60 percent, said they had a mix of successful and less successful children, while 17 percent had no children suffering from problems and 15 percent had no children they rated as being above average on life achievements.

The researchers then looked at how children's successes and failures affected parents' well-being. Parents who had more than one highly successful child reported better well-being. However, having even one problematic child had a negative impact on their mental health, even if the other children were successful. Simply having at least one successful child was not associated with better well-being. The findings suggest react more strongly to their children's failures than their successes, according to Fingerman

"Having two children suffering problems may be more demanding than having only one child who suffers problems," she said. "By the same token, having a successful child did not buffer the effects of problem-ridden children."

Explore further: Oil-swishing craze: Snake oil or all-purpose remedy?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Children's sex affects parents' marital status

May 23, 2006

Parents with a boy and a girl are more likely to stay married, or get married if they were unmarried when their children were born, than those with two boys or two girls according to new research from ANU economist Dr Andrew ...

Parental involvement key to preventing child bullying

May 03, 2010

Communities across the United States are developing programs to address child bullying. New research shows that parents can play an important role in preventing their children from becoming bullies in the first place.

Children's IQs go up when parents learn

Feb 18, 2008

The IQs of preschool-aged children who belong to low-income families improved after parents took a child-learning course, University of Oregon experts said.

Recommended for you

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury (Update)

Apr 18, 2014

About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City's jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that's the latest in a growing body ...

Autonomy and relationships among 'good life' goals

Apr 18, 2014

Young adults with Down syndrome have a strong desire to be self-sufficient by living independently and having a job, according to a study into the meaning of wellbeing among young people affected by the disorder.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.