Returns Home By Children and Changes in Parents' Well-Being in Europe

Emily Grundy, Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex
Marco Tosi, London School of Economics and Political Science

Co-resident adult children may be source of emotional and instrumental support for older parents, but also a source of conflict and stress. Results from previous research are far from conclusive and indicate that intergenerational co-residence may have both negative and positive effects on parents’ depressive symptoms and physical health. We analyse longitudinal data from four waves of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (2007-2015) to examine whether returns to the parental home by adult children are associated with changes in parent’s quality of life. Results from fixed effects linear regression models show that returns to the parental home by adult children were associated with decreases in quality of life among parents aged 50-75. Effects were particularly marked when an adult child returned to an ‘emptied nest’ where no other children were still co-resident. In line with previous research which has indicated differing effects of co-residence on parents’ depressive symptoms by cultural tradition, such moves were associated with decreases in parents’ quality of life to a greater extent in Protestant tradition countries than in Catholic tradition countries. There were no associations between changes in parental quality of life and returning child’s characteristics, including the time spent outside the parental home, marital and employment status. Our findings suggest that returning home as a non-normative life course transition has negative implications for parents’ well-being in societies where individual autonomy is highly valued.

Presented in Session 87: Families in Later Life Stages