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

children.

The researchers considered two categories of problems: lifestyle and behavior problems that were due to the person's own actions ("voluntary"), such as trouble with the law, drinking or drug problems, and financial difficulties; and physical and emotional problems, such as a disability or serious health issue ("involuntary").

Most of the parents surveyed had two or more children, and roughly three-quarters of them reported having a mix of children experiencing problems and children experiencing successes.

The researchers found that parents who had more than one highly successful child reported better well-being. However, having even one problematic child had a negative impact on the parent's mental health, even if their other children were successful. The findings were the same for both categories of problems.

Having one or more successful children was not associated with any boost in well being if a problematic child was also part of the mix. "Thus, it may be true that parents are only as happy as their least happy child," the authors wrote.

"One bad apple really does seem to spoil the barrel," said Adam Davey, associate professor of public health in the College of Health Professions and Social Work at Temple University. "What this study shows is that it takes many successful children to offset the negative consequences of one child with problems."

Fingerman said parents who are stressed because of one child's troubles "are attending so much to the negative, that they tend to overlook the positive. If they can make an effort to focus on the rewards they get from their other children, that can be helpful."

Davey's advice to parents: Try to step back and not be as involved in your grown children's lives.

"To the extent that parents can separate the events of their own lives from those of their children, avoid blaming themselves for the children's experiences, or feeling an overwhelming need to 'fix' t
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