Older Parents Still Lose Sleep By Worrying About Their Adult Children, Study Reveals

Older Parents Still Lose Sleep By Worrying About Their Adult Children, Study Reveals

According to a study published in The Gerontologist Journal, older adults cannot help but stress over their grown kids' well being the same way they did when their children were young.

It is only natural for any human being to care and worry for their children when they are young. A person's childhood and adolescence is the most influential period of one's life that sets the framework for their individuality. If not guided in the right path from the start, it leaves an unwanted impression in the child's mind. However, if you believe that's the only phase of life that parents are most worried about their offsprings, you might be wrong, because new research has revealed that older people undergo a lot more stress worrying about their adult children.


A research study published in The Gerontologist Journal states that older parents undergo the same amount of stress worrying about their grown-up kids just as they used to years ago while raising them. This concern might sound a tad bit unreasonable, considering they are now grown-ups who are capable of taking charge of their lives. However, the fact that their children are no longer present in the same house does disturb their peace of mind. In the past, they had the opportunity to attend to every need and problem that their beloved kids were facing, but now when they leave the house, their parents can't help but lose sleep over their adult offsprings' well being.


A family gerontologist and lead author of this study, Amber J. Seidel, Ph.D., from Penn State York in Pennsylvania revealed how important family relations are to society while speaking to CBS News. "I feel that many share this value, yet I think much of the socialization in our culture focuses on family when children are younger," said Seidel sharing the reason behind getting involved with this research. "I seek to study topics that help us understand how family continues to be a central part of our lives throughout adulthood, and I encourage considering family-level influences in all situations."

In order to come to the aforementioned conclusion, researchers analyzed the data about 186 heterosexual married couples with two to three children on average. While the men in the relationship were found to be around 58 years old on average, the women were almost 57. The experts then urged these respondents to rate the various kinds of support they were offering their adult kids on a scale of 1 to 8, with 1 being the highest amount of support (or every day) and 8 being the lowest (at least once a year). The researchers took many types of support into consideration including emotional support, financial assistance, practical help, companionship, advice, and discussing daily events. 


In addition, they were also asked to rate the degree of stress they are under while trying to assist their grown-up children and the level of worry they have for them on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least or "not at all" and 5 being the most or "a great deal." The participants also reported the amount of sleep they got every night. While the husbands reported an average sleeping time of 6.69 hours, the wives managed to get about 6.66 hours of rest. Based on the results, they found how husbands supporting their grown children had a poorer quality of sleep.  But husbands tended to sleep better when the wives took up the role of being the provider for their kids.  However, in the case of women, they did not report any significant change in sleep patterns when they were responsible for their children.


In the case of the wives, a higher amount of stress about supporting their kids did seem to impair their sleep. Unlike men, where stress didn't seem to disrupt their sleep. Finally, they came to the conclusion that providing support affected the sleep of men while stressing over this support affected the women. Seidel believes that the outcome was a result of the parents' involved in their grown kid's lives these days. "Current research on young adults suggests that parents and children are maintaining high levels of involvement. Although parents and adult children have always maintained some level of involvement, we do see an increase in what is often termed ‘helicopter parenting’ and ‘landing pad’ children," added Seidel.



Seidel further mentioned how the usage of cellphones and social mediums gives parents an insight into their kid's lives, providing them more reason to worry. Due to such issues, parents deal with a lot of stress which leads to sleep loss and impacts the physical and mental health of the person negatively. Thus, Seidel urges parents to cope with this stress in a healthy way by exercising, eating better, joining support groups and going for therapy. "It is important to remember that having stress present in our lives is not the problem," she said. "It’s the inability to cope in healthy ways with the stress that is problematic and may lead to immune suppression. It’s the inability to cope in healthy ways with the stress that is problematic and may lead to immune suppression."


Seidel also suggested that parents reflect on their degree of involvement in their grown kid's lives, and how they are received.   It's important to determine whether their gesture is perceived as enabling their children or seeking control over them or simply providing support. Although the author notes that the study is limited in a manner that it cannot possibly prove whether providing support for adult kids or stressing over providing support directly affects sleep. The lack of sleep too could be the reason behind the increased amount of stress. Nevertheless, Siedel continued to explore the relationships between parents and their kids in her further research and in doing so attempted to explore how these factors affect the health and well-being of all the parties involved. 


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