Adult Children’s Problems and Successes: Implications for Intergenerational Ambivalence

Ambivalence theory suggests that parents experience ambivalence due to conflicting desires to help children in need and to launch children into adulthood. This study examined parents' reports of their adult children's problems and successes and implications for ambivalence. Participants aged 40 – 60 years (302 men and 331 women from different families) reported on up to 3 of their adult children (N = 1,251). Men and women differentiated among children in ratings of problems, successes, and ambivalence. Men and not women reported greater ambivalence regarding children with more physical – emotional problems and less career success. Men and women reported greater ambivalence regarding children with less relationship success. Consistent with ambivalence theory, individuals feel more ambivalent regarding problematic and less successful children but men's ambivalence appears to be more sensitive to their children's problems and successes than women's ambivalence. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]