Middle-Aged Couples’ Exchanges of Support with Aging Parents: Patterns and Association with Marital Satisfaction

We examined the context of intergenerational support exchanges with aging parents and its association with middle-aged couples’ marital satisfaction. A sample of 197 middle-aged couples reported support they gave to and received from their parents (n = 440). Results indicated that couples provided more total support to and received more from their parents as a function of number of living parents, but the amount of support each parent received (‘parent-adjusted support’) was lower when there were more living parents. The amount of support given to and received from parents had no association with the couple’s marital satisfaction, but discrepancies in support given to and received from parents did have a significant association with marital satisfaction. Husbands who gave more support to their living parent(s) than their wives reported lower marital satisfaction. A similar effect on marital satisfaction was found for wives who gave more support to their living parents than their husbands. These findings contrast with caregiving studies where amount of support affected marital satisfaction and suggest that inequalities in involvement with parents may be a critical dimension in marriages of midlife adults.