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A New Norm: Marriages Can Thrive with a Full Nest

A New Norm: Marriages Can Thrive with a Full Nest

There's a silver lining to the Great Recession: new research published in the Journal of Gerontology Psychological Sciences shows that the addition of an adult child to your home may no longer spell trouble for your marriage. The study compared marriage quality from 2013 to that from 2008, before the financial collapse.

Adult children living with their parents has become increasingly common in the United States and across the world, as a recent analysis by the Pew Research Center found.

"As it's become more common or 'normative' to live with adult children, the arrangement is no longer associated with lower marital quality," says Eden Davis, PhD candidate in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. "We think that sharing the home has been destigmatized in recent years due to the national increase in coresidence."

Davis and her coauthors, Kyungmin Kim of the University of Massachusetts Boston and Karen Fingerman of The University of Texas at Austin, analyzed data on quality of marriage from 287 middle-aged couples collected in 2008 and 2013.Just under half of the parents in the study reported living with at least one adult child at both waves of data collection, although not necessarily the same children.

The authors found in 2008 that sharing a home with adult children was harmful to a marriage (the study controlled for race, education, employment, and other factors). Further analysis demonstrated that most of the dissatisfaction was driven by the mother's point of view. But by 2013—in the wake of five years of financial upheaval—the negative association was gone. Fewer parents reported low marital quality when residing with their adult children.

The effect is different, however, for parents living with adult children who have financial and other problems. In 2008, parents who lived with children showed lower marital quality, regardless of whether the children living with them had a life problem. But in 2013, parents only showed lower marital quality when their coresident child was suffering from problems.

"We initially expected coresidence with adult children would be a bad thing across the board," says Davis. "But after the Great Recession we were able to observe an unexpected trend: coresidence is now more normative and not as damaging to parental marital relationships."

"We are learning more about the effect of children on midlife parents," says Fingerman, professor of human development and family sciences. "We know that parents are highly reactive to problems in their grown children's lives. Parents' well-being suffers when grown children lose a job, get divorced or experience other life crises. And this study shows that it is susceptibility to those problems that affects parents rather than coresidence."

This work was funded by the National Institute on Aging, R01AG027769 -Family Exchanges Study II, and the MacArthur Network on an Aging Society.It was also supported by a grant to the Population Research Center by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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Monday, 06 July 2020

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