In an era of increasing mobility and high divorce rates, the parent/offspring tie has become one of the longest lasting and most important relationships in adults' lives. Although we know a great deal about positive qualities of this tie, we know surprisingly little about difficulties between parents and offspring after offspring enter young adulthood and before parents incur physical declines at the end of life. The proposed study looks a how parents and adult offspring perceive and handle problems in their relationships. We explore the ways in which age, gender, and relationship status (parent vs. offspring) are associated with differences in negative features of parent/adult offspring ties. Specifically, this study advances the field by looking at the psychosocial correlates underlying these marker variables. Participants will be 150 triads of offspring ages 24 to 44, their mothers, and their fathers (n = 450), residing within 50 miles of one another. Individual interviews will be conducted with each party, and offspring will participate in dyadic interviews with their mothers and fathers separately. Open-ended and forced-choice questions will provide information about parents' and offspring's perceptions of difficulties in their relationship and how they react to these difficulties. Dyadic interviews conducted between offspring and their mothers and their fathers will supply observational data concerning parents' and offspring's reactions to problems in their relationships. In addition, 150 offspring who reside at a distance from their parents will provide information about problems in their relationships. It is hypothesized that differences in beliefs about the relationship and variation in investment in the relationship will explain age gender, and status differences in perceptions of problems and reactions to problems. This research will provide a more comprehensive portrait of the parent/offspring relationship across adulthood. Furthermore, findings from this study will be of use to psychologists, social workers, and family practitioners who work with parents and adult offspring who encounter relationship problems.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-RPHB-1 (01))
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Nielsen, Lisbeth
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Purdue University
Other Domestic Higher Education
West Lafayette
United States
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Cichy, Kelly E; Lefkowitz, Eva S; Fingerman, Karen L (2013) Conflict engagement and conflict disengagement during interactions between adults and their parents. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 68:31-40
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