Being adult children of late-life divorced parents in Israel: A dyadic/familial perspective

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Abstract

Objectives: In this study, the researchers examined adult children's experience during and after their parents' late-life divorce. The study applies a familial/dyadic perspective. Family systems theory is used heuristically. Background: Late-life divorce is rising due to increased social legitimacy of divorce and life-expectancy. As parents age, their adult children become more involved in their parents' lives. Accordingly, adult children are expected to fulfill roles in their parents' life transitions such as late-life divorce. However, adult children's experiences regarding their parents late-life divorce is not as available in previous studies, especially from a dyadic/familial perspective. Method: Semistructured in-depth qualitative-interviews were conducted separately with 51 participants (28 adult children, 23 parents) composed of seven family units (n = 33) and nine parent–child-dyads (n = 18). Thematic analysis and dyadic interview analysis were used. Results: During the divorce, adult children experienced meaningful roles supporting their parents, mediating between them, or pushing them to finalize the divorce. Some avoided involvement. Parents described roles they assigned to their adult children and their consequences. After divorce, adult children continued supporting their parents, experiencing role reversal earlier than expected. Their new roles included relieving loneliness and worry and providing care. Conclusion: The roles adult children experience reveals unique challenges for adult-child–parent relationships after parents' late-life divorce, influencing the family system. Implications: Conceptualizing adult children's roles and the implications for family systems contributes to theoretical knowledge. Family counselors should provide families with relevant tools to deal with these consequences. Policy makers and training programs for family therapy should address the consequences of late-life divorce.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFamily Relations
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. Family Relations published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of National Council on Family Relations.

Keywords

  • family perspective
  • family-systems
  • late-life divorce
  • older parents
  • parents and adult children relationships
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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