Ambivalence in older parent-adult child relationships: Mixed feelings, mixed measures

Jessica P. Lendon, Merril Silverstein, Roseann Giarrusso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


This research compared direct and indirect measures of ambivalence, 2 commonly used strategies for measuring intergenerational ambivalence between older parents and their adult children. Directly and indirectly measured ambivalence, corresponding to felt and potential manifestations of the construct, were contrasted with each other and across generations. Data were derived from 253 older parent-adult child dyads participating in the Longitudinal Study of Generations in 2005. Direct and indirect measures of ambivalence were moderately correlated with each other within each generation. Children expressed greater indirect ambivalence than their parents but were no different than their mothers or fathers in their levels of direct ambivalence. Multivariate regression analyses examining the relationship between each type of ambivalence with individual and relationship characteristics found differences in associations across equations. The results suggest that direct and indirect measures are related but represent 2 distinct conceptions of ambivalence. This research highlights the challenges in understanding the full complexity of intergenerational relations and suggests that both generational perspectives be considered in future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-284
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Ambivalence
  • Intergenerational relationships
  • Quantitative methodology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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