Parents' and Offspring's Perceptions of Change and Continuity when Parents Experience the Transition to Old Age

Karen L. Fingerman, Elizabeth L. Hay, Claire M. Kamp Dush, Kelly E. Cichy, Shelley J. Hosterman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Most parents and children are fortunate to share several decades of the life course when both parties are healthy adults. When parents reach the transition to old age, however, they typically experience health declines and both parties must adjust to changes in the relationship. The sample included older adults (aged 70+) suffering vision loss, hearing loss, or seeking general health care and a grown son or daughter (N=121 dyads, 242 individuals). Aging parents also suffered common health problems (e.g., hypertension, arthritis). Parents and offspring provided open-ended descriptions of changes and continuities in their relationship. Although prior studies link parental health declines to intergenerational ambivalence, most parents and offspring in this study mentioned positive changes in the relationship in recent years, regardless of parental health. Multilevel models revealed that perceptions of changes in parental health or receipt of support were associated with objective indicators of parental health. Findings suggest offspring's views of the relationship converge with parents' when parents reach the transition to old age and show physical signs of aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-306
Number of pages32
JournalAdvances in Life Course Research
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by a grant from the Brookdale Foundation, “Sensory Impairment and Family Ties in Late Life” and by grant R01AG17916 “Problems Between Parents and Offspring in Adulthood” and grant R01AG027769 “The Psychology of Intergenerational Transfers,” from the National Institute of Aging awarded to Karen L. Fingerman.


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