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Funded Research

The Psychology of Intergenerational Transfers

Statement of Work

There are few legal or social sanctions in the U.S. requiring adults to provide assistance for their parents or grown offspring, but middle-aged adults frequently exchange assistance with generations above and below them. A burgeoning literature shows that most adults also experience frustration and tensions with parents and grown offspring. The proposed study examines: Aim 1) patterns of exchanges with parents vs. offspring (what is exchanged and who does the exchanging), Aim 2) beliefs about these exchanges, and Aim 3) feelings about these exchanges and relationships. We also consider parents? and offspring?s reports of the exchanges. The study fills a large gap in the literature by examining psychological processes (e.g., beliefs, feelings) associated with exchanges and considering multiple family members? perspectives on these exchanges. Participants include 302 men and 331 women aged 40 to 60 who have at least one living parent and one child over the age of 18. A total of 37% of the sample is African American. We also interviewed 337 of the respondents parents (G1; 69% women; ages 59 to 96) and 592 of the respondents children (G3; 53% daughters; ages 18 to 41). Computer assisted telephone interviews (CATI) included open-ended and forced-choice items. The analytic strategy relies on multilevel models (MLM). MLM allows us to consider middle-aged adults? perceptions of exchanges across multiple support domains (e.g., instrumental, financial, emotional) with multiple family members. These analyses include characteristics of the middle-aged adult (e.g., ethnicity, personality), family member (e.g., age), and relationship (e.g., parent vs. offspring) to understand patterns of exchanges. We also use MLM to examine multiple family members? (middle-aged adult, offspring, parent) reports of exchanges, as well as agreements and disagreements in family members? views of supports and feelings. Unique contributions of the study include examination of: different family members? reports of support within the same family (Aim 1); beliefs about motivations underlying exchanges with parents and offspring (Aim 2); positive and negative feelings about everyday exchanges and relationships (Aim 3). Prior studies have linked positive relationships with others to decreased morbidity and mortality at midlife, but research has not identified the mechanisms through which relationships influence health. Findings from this study will have implications for understanding how provision and receipt of support are associated with variability in health at midlife. Findings also will be of use to policy makers concerning expectations and feelings adults hold regarding familial versus public obligations. Furthermore, clinicians may draw on findings to assist adults who provide care to grown children or parents.


Purdue University

Funding Period:

06/01/2009 to 08/31/2011