Most parents don’t need a study to tell them that they lose sleep worrying about their kids when they’re young, but new research shows many adults with adult children also feel the stress.
Lead study author Amber J. Seidel said she got involved with the research because she believes family relationships are so important to society.
“I feel that many share this value, yet I think much of the socialization focuses on family when children are younger,” she told CBS News. “I seek to study topics that help us understand how family continues to be a central part of our lives throughout adulthood, and I encourage considering family-level influences in all situations.”
For the study, the researchers examined data on 186 heterosexual married couples who had, on average, two to three adult children. The men in the couples were about 58 years old on average, and the women closer to 57.
The researchers asked the parents to rate the different types of support they offer their adult children on a scale of one to eight, with one being “daily” and eight being “no more than once” a year. Types of support included companionship, emotional support, practical help, discussing daily events, advice and financial assistance.
The parents also rated how stressful they find it to help their adult children, and how much they worry about their adult children, on a scale from one to five, with one being “not at all” and five being “a great deal.”
Overall, the study found that the giving of support itself affected the men, while stress over the support was what affected the women.
Seidel says the results may be a side effect of how involved many parents are with their grown children’s lives these days.
“Current research on young adults suggests that parents and children are maintaining high levels of involvement,” she said. “Although parents and adult children have always maintained some level of involvement, we do see an increase in what is often termed ‘helicopter parenting’ and ‘landing pad’ children.
This trend, along with the emergence of technology like cellophanes and social media, gives parents a deeper insight into what is going on in their adult children’s lives, which may lead to more cause for concern, Seidel says.
Parents can help themselves deal with stress by developing healthy coping strategies, which may include better eating habits, exercise, mindfulness, support groups, or therapy.
Seidel also suggests that parents reflect on their level of involvement in their adult child’s life, how their child is receiving it, and whether they are enabling their child, seeking to control their child, or providing support.
Seidel says future research should continue to explore how the relationships between parents and their adult children can affect all areas of health and well-being.