Older Parents Still Worry And Lose Sleep Over Their Adult Children, Reveals Study

Parenthood is a true blessing, and every parent has a close emotional bond with their children.

Yet, while we thought that parents are most protective while their kids are young or during their adolescent years, a recent study published in The Gerontologist Journal found that numerous older adults constantly worry about their grown children now with the same level of stress as they did while raising them.

This might not be that surprising if we consider the fact that during infancy and schooling, even though children are at a higher risk in a myriad of ways, their parents are always around at home. On the other hand, when children leave their home, most parents become anxious and worried.

The study was led by family gerontologist Amber J. Seidl, Ph.D., from Penn State York, and the aim was to study the impact of family in later stages of life.

She says that she studies topics that help us understand how family continues to be a central part of our lives throughout adulthood, and analyzes the impact of family in all situations.

However, we must mention several discrepancies in this kind of survey as there are differences in the cultures in the West and the East. Namely, as many Indians live with their parents until their marriage, and even after that, in the West, America, and Europe especially, boys and girls learn to be independent from a young age.

The study involved 186 heterosexual married couples who had on average two or three children, all grown up. Then men had an average age of 58 years, and the women were at an average of 57 years.

They were asked to rate the degree of support they provided their children on a scale of 1 to 8, with 1 being the highest and 8 being the lowest amount of support, as little as once a year.

The kinds of support included in the survey encompassed financial support, practical aid, emotional support, advice, companionship, and discussing daily events.

Participants were also asked to assign a rating on a scale of 1 to 5 to the level of stress they felt when helping out their adult children, and the extent to which they worried about them, on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 indicated “not at all” and 5 indicated “a great deal.”

They also estimated the number of hours of sleep they managed to get each night, on average. The husbands surveyed slept around 6.69 hours every night, and their wives reported only around 6.66 hours of sleep on average every night.

The study showed that there was a link between their anxiety or worry over their adult children and their own sleep quality.

Also, researchers revealed some quite surprising findings. Fathers reported poorer sleep when they provided their adult children with support, while their wives who claimed responsibility for providing support to their grown children actually slept better than the other husbands in the study.

Surprisingly, the mothers did not report a similar impact on their sleeping patterns, and when they worried over having to offer support, their sleep was disturbed, but their stress levels did not seem to have an impact on the number of hours their husbands slept.

Husbands were more affected by the need to provide support, while the mothers were more affected by the stress they felt over the support.

Seidel explained that even though parents and adult children have always maintained some level of involvement, there is an increase in ‘helicopter parenting’ and ‘landing pad’ children.”

She also added that the explosion of smartphone usage and social media had only added on to their existing concerns, as parents get more reasons to worry, being informed about everything their children are going through in a day.

Seidel also tried to make parents analyze the type of support they offer to their adult children, and see if they try to control their lives, if they reward their destructive behaviors, or provide unconditional support while letting them to be free.

Seidel advises parents to take a step back if their constant provision of support is a way of controlling their children, or even if it enables their children to keep relying on them instead of learning to be independent.

Additionally, there are differences in the perception and upbringing approach of the baby boomer generation (1944-65). They have a vested interest in a professional outlook and a strong sense of self in their employment status, so they have strong rational decision-making skills.

Their children have the strongest relationships with them, as they allowed their children to start their own life, but kept the family values. At the time, contraception wasn’t mainstream and birth rates were fairly high, which additionally strengthened family ties.

On the other hand, millennials (children born between 1980-1994) opt to stay at home well after schooling, mostly due to financial reasons.

These children are also more involved in the community and are high school graduates who also have (at least) a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, the time it takes for a millennial to establish him/herself in a career is longer than in the case of baby boomers.