Aging Parents’ and Middle-Aged Children’s Evaluations of Parents’ Disability and Life Problems

Hyo Jung Lee, Kyungmin Kim, Lauren R. Bangerter, Steven H. Zarit, Karen L. Fingerman

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3 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined discrepancies in aging parents’ and middle-aged children’s evaluations of aging parents’ problems and how these discrepancies were associated with relationship characteristics. Using data from the Family Exchanges Study (dyad N = 331), discrepancies in the parents’ disabilities and life problems reported by parents and their offspring were examined. Children reported a greater number of disabilities and life problems in their parents’ lives than parents did. The discrepancy in the number of disabilities was associated with the frequency of phone contact, but not the frequency of in-person contact between generations. Findings confirm the gap in the evaluations of parents’ problems between generations, indicating that children may overestimate their parents’ problems, whereas parents may underreport their own problems. Frequent phone calls between aging parents and middle-aged children seem to play a positive role in conveying aging parents’ problems. The gap in knowledge of parents’ problems may lead to unmet needs and/or undesirable support exchanges between parents and offspring. Future research needs to consider both generations’ reports and to develop reliable methods to assess parents’ problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-146
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Adult Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jun 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), R01AG027769, Family Exchanges Study II (Karen L. Fingerman, Principal investigator) and R03AG048879, Generational Family Patterns and Well - Being (Kyungmin Kim, Principal investigator). The MacArthur Network on an Aging Society (John W. Rowe, Network director) provided funds. This research also was supported by grant, 5 R24 HD042849 awarded to the Population Research Center (PRC) at The University of Texas at Austin by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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