Summary and Keywords
The parent-child relationship is one of the most significant social relations for many individuals. In particular, intergenerational ties to adult children often remain as one of the main social networks and sources of support provisions in later life. By reviewing the key literature on older parent-child relations, this article discussed the dynamics and complexity of intergenerational ties and their impact on the lives of older adults. First, we discussed theoretical perspectives that have guided recent research on intergenerational relations, including the life course perspective, and solidarity, conflict, and ambivalence models. Second, we reviewed the literature on structural aspects of the relations, including coresidence, proximity, and contact, and their implications for older adults’ health and well-being. Third, regarding a functional side of parent-child relations, we discussed the different types and implications of support exchanges between older adults and their adult children. Finally, our discussion concluded with the review of emotional qualities (i.e., positive, negative, and ambivalent) in parent-child relations and the factors that may complicate the intergenerational ties in later life. Our review revealed that the significance of parent-child ties remains with the changes in demographic, social, and cultural environments of our aging society, and the different dimensions of parent-child ties (i.e., structural, functional, and emotional) have important influences on older adults’ well-being, quality of life, and health. To better understand the implications of parent-child ties in later life, future research is needed to uncover the specific mechanisms by which different dimensions of intergenerational relations and health outcomes among family members are linked.
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