For better or worse, baby boomers approach retirement with more complex marital histories than previous generations. Temple University researcher Adam Davey, Ph.D. has found the impact of these events -- divorces, widowhood, and remarriage can predict if a child will provide more involved care in the future.
A divorce may have happened over 30 years ago, but the changes it caused can have a long lasting effect for the child into adulthood, Davey said. The findings appear in the September issue of Advances in Life Course Research.
More specifically, divorce predicted an adult child would be less of involved with day-to-day assistance later in life for the aging parent. These activities include the child helping the parent maintain chores in the home.
Its not the divorce itself that affects the quality of the parent-child relationship, but its what happens afterwards such as geographical separation, said Davey, a gerontologist who studies trends in the baby boomer generation and other aging issues.
Davey analyzed data from 2,087 parents, aged 50 and older, who reported on their 7,019 adult children in the National Survey of Family and Households. Information was collected between 1987 and 1994.
Marital transitions affect families in a number of ways, Davey said. They can interrupt the relationship of support between a parent and child, and the evidence suggests that the continuity of support by parents and to parents matters.
The study also found marital disruptions earlier in a childs life can be less detrimental to the relationship than those, which occurred in adulthood. This also means children in the same family can be affected differently by the same event, Davey said.
The results suggest that both the type of transition and when in a childs life it occurs are important. A fathers remarriage early in a childs life makes it more likely that the child will provide help later in life, but the sa
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