A Family Affair: Family Typologies of Problems and Midlife Well-Being

Background and Objectives:

Midlife adults are a “pivot” generation, responding to parents' and grown children's problems. Yet, some midlife adults may have families where multiple members suffer sorrows, whereas other midlife adults may have families with few problems. This study examined: (a) typologies of problems across generations and (b) associations between profiles of problems and midlife adults' well-being.

Research Design and Methods:

Midlife adults (N = 633) reported their own, each parent's (n = 868), and grown child's (n = 1,785) physical (e.g., injury, cancer), psychological (e.g., anxiety, addiction), and lifestyle problems (e.g., divorce, job loss), and parents' functional disabilities. Midlife adults reported their own depressive symptoms.


Latent profile analysis revealed four family typologies: (a) lowest problems across generations (n = 364), (b) offspring and midlife adult moderate problems, parent high physical problems and disability (n = 165), (c) offspring and parent moderate problems (n = 90), and (d) offspring highest problems (n = 14). Midlife adults in the lowest problems group (Profile a) reported higher income and fewer depressive symptoms than midlife adults in the other groups.

Discussion and Implications:

Midlife adults cope with challenges when grown children or parents suffer problems, and their well-being may suffer as a result. In this study, regardless of the profile, higher problems in either generation were associated with more depressive symptoms for midlife adults.