Middle-aged parents are more involved in their grown children’s lives than ever before, according to a new research.
“We found that middle-aged parents help each of their grown children with many types of support at least every few weeks,” said Karen Fingerman, professor of gerontology, developmental and family studies at Purdue University.
“This is a dramatic increase from 20 years ago, when young adults received much less support from their parents,” he said.
Most people expect parents to help their youngest child or one that is struggling, but the family studies expert found that parents also are more eager to help the child they consider most successful.
“It’s a complicated world today. An 18-year-old just can’t strike out on their own to make it like they did 100 years ago. We’re beyond the time when the average young person could start a career by working with their hands, and then start a little business that would support them and their family.”
“Today’s trajectory to success requires a lot of skill and training, which comes at a cost in terms of money, time and emotional investment. Parents help with all of that,” Fingerman said.
Fingerman also said it can be more difficult for young adults to find life partners today, and many of them are postponing marriage until they are older. As a result, these adult-children still benefit from parental emotional and social support.
Fingerman and her team evaluated how more than 600 parents, ages 40-60, reported they supported their individual children and for what reasons.
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 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.
The study will be published in this month’s Journal of Marriage and Family.