Fingerman and her team evaluated how more than 600 parents, ages 40-60, reported they supported their individual children and for what reasons. The forms of support included financial, helping with tasks, giving advice, emotional support, listening and participating in social activities. The study will be published in this month's Journal of Marriage and Family.
Children who had health or financial problems, injuries, or were victims of crime were considered needy and received a great deal of support to help address those needs. Parents also provided considerable support to grown children they deemed successful in their own relationships and careers. It was these children that parents enjoyed helping the most.
Parents are motivated to help their successful young-adult children because their achievements are a reflection on the parent. After 18 years, a parent has put a lot of time and energy into raising a child. When the child is successful, the parent feels like all that effort paid off. And the parent feels successful, too, in their role as a parent, Fingerman said.
"Another possibility is that these middle-aged parents expect the successful child will help them during old age," Fingerman said. "I don't think people are deliberately that strategic, but it is a reality that the adult-children who are better achieving will help their elderly parents more. It's certainly a good investment for the parents, but it's also a good investment to rescue your children who are having problems.
"While parents may want to spend more time with the successful child, they may be more likely to give financial assistance and practical support to a child who is having problems."
The study also found that parents are not getting much in return from their children, but that is likely to change as the parents age. These middle-aged parents are healthy and financially stable so they are not in a position of need.
|Contact: Amy Patterson Neubert|