Purpose of the Study: Research shows that parents benefit psychologically from generativity—giving and caring for the next generation—but older adults’ perceptions on giving support to their children are rarely if ever explored in these studies. The current study examines the association between the support that aging parents give to one of their middle-aged offspring, their perception of this support as rewarding or stressful, and their levels of depressive symptoms.
Design and Methods: The sample draws from The Family Exchanges Study and consisted of 337 older parents (mean age: 76) who were drawn from a larger study of middle-aged adults (i.e., target participants). Older parents reported tangible and nontangible forms of support given to the target middle-aged child and the extent to which they viewed providing such support as stressful and/or rewarding.
Results: We found significant interactions between tangible support and feelings of reward and between nontangible support and feelings of stress in explaining parental depressive symptoms. Parents who found giving support to be highly rewarding had lower levels of depressive symptoms when giving high amounts of tangible support. Conversely, parents who view giving support to be highly stressful had higher levels of depressive symptoms when they gave low amounts of nontangible support.
Implications: Findings suggest older parents’ perceptions of supporting their offspring may condition how generativity affects their mental health.