Linked Lives: Adult Chidren’s Distress and Their Parents’ Well-Being

Greenfield, Emily A., Nadine F. Marks
Working paper no. 2004-27


This study investigated linkages between adult children’s distress and their parents’ psychological and relational well-being. Multivariate regression models were estimated based on data from 1,129 parents whose youngest child was at least 19 years old in the 1995 National Survey of Midlife in the U.S. (MIDUS). Results indicated that participants whose adult children experienced more types of distress reported more negative affect, less positive affect, less self-acceptance, poorer overall parent-child relationship quality, and more family relationship strain. The problematic associations between adult children’s distress and overall parent-child relationship quality, as well as between adult children’s distress and negative affect, were stronger for parents coresiding with an adult child and/or grandchild. These results are consistent with the family life course perspective, which conceptualizes parents and children as occupying mutually influential interlocking developmental trajectories throughout their lives.