Filial obligation across generations and implications for parental psychological well-being

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2015-05

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Abstract

Adult offspring provide support for their older parents for a variety of reasons. Research has documented how relationship quality, reciprocity of support, and parental needs are associated with adults’ support for their parents. However, adult offspring also help their parents because they believe they should do so. Based on the Family Exchanges Study Wave 2 (FES2) data, this dissertation examined the sense of filial obligation, a family norm that individuals should help their older parents in times of need. The first study investigated the associations of individuals’ sense of filial obligation across three generations. This study explored possible factors associated with family members’ transmission of filial obligation. Findings revealed that grandparents’ sense of filial obligation was associated with that of middle-aged parents. Young adults reported a stronger sense of filial obligation when their parents socialized more frequently with grandparents. The second study investigated whether adult offspring’s filial obligation contributed to their appraisals when helping older parents and parental well-being. The role of frequency of support was also investigated. The results indicated that adult offspring’s stronger sense of filial obligation was associated with less stressful and more rewarding feelings in helping older parents. Furthermore, offspring’s lower stress was associated with less parental depression. In contrast, offspring’s filial beliefs were also associated with more frequent support which was associated with more stress and more parental depression. This dissertation contributes to the literature by integrating the understanding of filial obligation with multiple family members, offspring’s feelings about support, and parental well-being. The findings also informed the importance of including reports from multiple generations and family members in studies regarding intergenerational support.

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