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Introduction

Underpinning many contemporary discussions of family relationship issues is the impact of demographic ageing on the structure of modern families.  Decreasing birth rates and increasing life expectancy, along with changes in partnering, re-partnering, separation and divorce, have affected the shape and complexity of the modern family.  It is now common for people in middle to late adulthood to have living parents, with demographic ageing operating to extend the shared life span of parents and adult children.  This can bring about new roles, expectations and potential sources of support, but also may increase the risk of conflict and strain (Ferring, 2009), especially where there are requirements for extended periods of care.

Relationships between adults and their parents are different to other social and familial relationships due to their long shared history and changes in child-parent dependencies from infancy through adulthood, and the quality of these evolving relationships has far reaching impacts on both adult child and parental well-being.  In their review of ageing and family life, for example, Silverstein and Giarrusso (2010) discussed the association between strong, positive relationships between aging parents and their adult children and reduced risk of dementia.  There is also evidence that the extent to which adult children support their ageing parents depends to a large extent on adult children’s emotional relationship quality with their parents (Merrill, 1997).

This month’s online survey report further explores our interest in the dynamics of family relationships and ageing by asking visitors to our website to answer a few questions about their relationships with their ageing parents.

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