Do Your Adult Children Perceive Your Support as "Conflicted"?


Every parent will support their child or children into old age, but when there seem to be strings attached, the relationship becomes strained and conflicted. As parents, we will help them financially, emotionally, physically and any other way that will ensure our investment in their future pays off. Every parent, social butterfly or old grouch, wants his or her child to succeed.


No matter our age, we always seem to require some form of support, whether it's postpartum depression we battle or need help standing back up after losing a great deal of our finances. The problem is that when older children who are considered adults themselves receive support or advice, both practical and emotional, it can be taken the wrong way. Normally, children are always glad to have their parents still helping them out, but tensions can rise and certain emotions might come into play that are unnatural in a parent-child relationship, no matter how much one ages.

How could your adult child be viewing your support?

  • It can seem controlling
  • The support given can be experienced as ungenerous
  • They may feel entitled to repay you
  • The parents can come off as overbearing

Conflicting support might also turn into a nightmare if they do not support your choice of partner in your life, for various reasons. It might also create problems with families with grandparents and grandchildren, particularly in terms of legal rights.

Studies looking at the emotional responses to support by parents when one has already passed a certain age is not very well explored. A study of late in the Journal of Gerontology aims to bridge that particular gap. The results were rather enlightening.


Do your own adult children perceive your support as conflicted?

How about we answer a few questions to figure that out.

  • How old are your children? Are they younger adults or much older?
  • Do you believe your adult children should be fully autonomous?
  • Do you believe your adult children should not need much of your support after a certain age?
  • Does it stress you out when they come to you for financial help?
  • Does it stress you out that you still need to give them advice?
  • How often do you give any form of support to your children?
  • Would rate that you have a high or low quality relationship with your children?

Older adult children will see the support as conflicted if the parents report greater stress while helping out and/or if they have more staunch beliefs about their children's need for autonomy. Younger adults in general report more conflicted support. A warmer higher quality relationship will also ensure better reception of given help, particularly in a family where there is no divorce and the older generations still enjoy one another, whereas parental abuse or neglect will lead to much more than just conflicting support.

The statistics on parental support
* 40% of grown children perceive their parents's support as conflicting
* 29% are reminded of the help parents gave time and again
* 15-17% reported parents helping only with strings attached or trying to coerce them

Today, middle-aged parents provide more support to their adult children than they did about two decades ago, meaning that these parents have few role models to base their own behavior on. The more a parent believes in the autonomy of the child, the more stress their given support instills and the more negative it is all perceived. As such, your own children might be perceiving your support as conflicting.

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