But parents generally are more bothered by the tensions—and the older the child, the greater the bother.
"The parent-child relationship is one of the longest lasting social ties human beings establish," said Kira Birditt, lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR). "This tie is often highly positive and supportive but it also commonly includes feelings of irritation, tension and ambivalence."
The study will be featured in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychology and Aging.
For the study, supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, Birditt and colleagues at Purdue and Pennsylvania State universities analyzed data on 474 parents and adult children who were at least 22 years old. The adult children lived within 50 miles of their parents. African Americans made up one-third of the sample and the rest were European Americans.
The researchers asked about tensions related to a variety of topics, including personality differences, past relationship problems, children's finances, housekeeping habits, lifestyles, and how often they contacted each other.
Parents and adult children in the same families had different perceptions of tension intensity, with parents generally reporting more intense tensions than children did particularly regarding issues having to do with the children's lifestyle or behavior (finances, housekeeping). According to Birditt, tensions may be more upsetting to parents than to children because parents have more invested in the relationship. Parents are also concerned with launching their children into successful adulthood.
Both mothers and fathers reported more tension in their relationships with daughters than with sons. Daughters generally have closer relationships with parents that involve more contact which may provide more opportunities for tensions in the parent-daughter tie.
Both adult sons and adult daughters reported more tension with their mothers than with their fathers, particularly about personality differences and unsolicited advice. "It may be that children feel their mothers make more demands for closeness," Birditt said, "or that they are generally more intrusive than fathers."
Birditt found it surprising that parental perceptions of tension increased with the adult children's age, particularly about topics having to do with how they interact (e.g., personality differences). "Middle-aged children may be less invested in the parent-child tie than young adult children because they're more likely to have formed their own families and experience multiple role demands," Birditt said. And as parents age and come to want or need more from their relationship with adult children, adult children may pull away, creating greater relationship tensions.
Although most parents and adult children experience at least a little tension, Birditt found that some topics were more harmful than others to parent-child relationships.
"Relationship problems like basic personality differences and parents providing unsolicited advice tend to cause more problems," Birditt said. "It may be that these kinds of tensions are longer-term, and reflect deep-seated conflicts that you just can't escape, whereas conflicts about lifestyles, education or finances can sort of be put off to the side if you make an effort."
In related, unpublished research, Birditt analyzed the strategies parents and adult children used to cope with relationship tensions. The good news is that both parents and children were most likely to deal with problems constructively by trying to accommodate each other's wishes when problems came up, working to find solutions to problems, and trying to accept and understand the other's point of view.
The more intense the tension level, though, the less likely parents and children were to use constructive strategies and the more likely they were to try avoiding the issues or use destructive strategies such as yelling or arguing. And according to Birditt, that is bad news. Avoidance and destructive strategies are associated with poorer quality relationships overall.
"The old adage, 'If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all,' isn't good advice for parents and adult children," she said. "Avoidance doesn't work as a strategy for dealing with conflicts. It appears to make things worse."
Established in 1949, the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR) is among the world's oldest academic survey research organizations, and a world leader in the development and application of social science methodology. ISR conducts some of the most widely cited studies in the nation, including the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, the American National Election Studies, the Monitoring the Future Study, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the Health and Retirement Study, the Columbia County Longitudinal Study, and the National Survey of Black Americans. ISR researchers also collaborate with social scientists in more than 60 nations on the World Values Surveys and other social science research projections.
Diane Swanbrow | EurekAlert!
Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research