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One Troubled Adult Child a Drag on Parents' Mental Health
Date:8/13/2010

By Madonna Behen
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 12 (HealthDay News) -- It may be a cliché, but it's true: Parents never stop worrying about their children's troubles, even when they're all grown up.

But even when parents have a mix of successful and not-so-successful adult children, the heartache they suffer over one dysfunctional kid's problems isn't offset by positive feelings from the accomplishments of their other offspring, a new study finds.

"What this study really shows is that for parents, it's very hard to see your children struggle," said lead author Karen Fingerman, a professor in gerontology, developmental and family studies at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

Fingerman co-authored the study along with researchers at the University of Michigan and Pennsylvania State University. The findings were to be presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, in San Diego.

Although prior research has shown that parents report lower well-being when their grown children have problems, and feel better emotionally when their kids are successful, Fingerman said no one had looked at how parents are affected when they have a mix of problematic and successful children. "We were kind of hoping for the opposite result, but it's pretty consistent with the literature on negative emotions," she said.

For the study, the researchers collected telephone survey results from 633 middle-aged parents in the Philadelphia area, who rated each of their grown children's achievements in relationships, family life, education and career. The parents were asked whether each of their adult children had experienced a list of problems within the past two years, and to rate each child's successes compared to other adults the same age. The parents were also asked about their own psychological well-being, and were questioned regarding the kind of relationship they had with their
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