Does intergenerational social support influence the psychological well-being of older parents? The contingencies of declining health and widowhood

Merril Silverstein, Vern L. Bengtson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

138 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study investigates whether social support from adult children improves the psychological well-being of elderly parents. Support is studied as a direct influence on emotional distress and as a moderator of the distressing consequences of health problems and widowhood. Research questions are addressed using data from elderly parents participating in 1985 and 1988 surveys of the U.S.C., Longitudinal Study of Three Generation Families. Results from multiple regression analyses indicate that instrumental and expressive forms of social support are weakly related to 3-year change in positive and negative aspects of psychological well-being. However, both types of support moderate declines in well-being associated with poor health and widowhood. We conclude that the psychological benefits of intergenerational social support are contingent on the vulnerability of the older parent, when expectations for assistance are at their greatest. This finding has considerable implications for family theory and policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)943-957
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume38
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1994
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Social support
  • aging families
  • psychological well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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