Intergenerational Ambivalence in Adolescence and Early Adulthood: Implications for Depressive Symptoms Over Time

The parent-child relationship is often characterized by ambivalence, defined as the simultaneous experience of positive and negative relationship quality. This study examines reports of intergenerational ambivalence in 3 developmental periods: adolescence, emerging adulthood, and young adulthood, as well as its implications for depressive symptoms over a 12-year period. Participants ages 13 to 29 (n = 255) were interviewed in 1992 and again in 2005 at ages 25 to 41 (n = 186). Results indicate that offspring's reports of intergenerational ambivalence decreased over time. Greater ambivalence toward mothers predicted increased depressive symptoms over time while greater ambivalence toward fathers predicted decreased depressive symptoms over time. These results suggest that depressive symptoms in adulthood are vulnerable to the quality of the parent-child relationship earlier in the life course.