Relationship satisfaction between elderly mothers and their adult children

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The perceived satisfaction derived in the relationship between elderly mothers and their middle-aged children was examined by interviewing both mothers and children. Satisfaction with the relationship was found to be correlated with the following relationship characteristics: (1) degree of sentiment perceived, experienced and expressed toward each other (affection); (2) quality of the face-to-face interactions with one another (association); and (3) each person's view of the level of agreement in values, opinions and attitudes shared with each other (consensus). Mothers and children responded similarly with regard to the dimensions of affection, and consensus in that increased affection and consensus was positively associated with levels of satisfaction experienced in the relationship. Mothers and children also reported that the quality of association was important, although the two groups responded differently to this relationship characteristic. The degree to which children gained satisfaction from the relationship was positively correlated with the perceived quality of the face-to-face interaction, while the quality of these interactions was much less important in the sample of mothers. None of the demographic variables (socioeconomic status, child gender, residential proximity); quality of life variables (vigor, life events, environmental satisfaction); or marital variables (marital adjustment, marriage length) were found to affect relationship satisfaction between elderly mothers and their children. This research suggests that there is a class of relationship characteristics which includes affection, association and consensus that affects relationship satisfaction. Furthermore this class of characteristics appears to be exclusive and unaffected by specific demographic, quality of life and marital variables.