Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Adult Children Taking Parents into Their Homes: Effects of Childhood Living Arrangements

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Adult Children Taking Parents into Their Homes: Effects of Childhood Living Arrangements

Article excerpt

This article explores whether childhood living arrangements (living with single or remarried parents, exposure to extended households) impact attitudes toward and implementation of parental coresidence. The results indicate that positive attitudes toward parental coresidence are less common among those raised by single fathers and more common among women exposed to traditional extended households. Parental coresidence is more prevalent among men and women raised by single or remarried mothers, as well as men living with single fathers, and less common among individuals living with remarried fathers.

Key Words: childhood living arrangements, coresidence, extended family, grandparents, intergenerational solidarity.

Little is known about whether and how early childhood living arrangements affect adult children's propensity to take aging parents into their homes. Past research on caregiving has focused on the characteristics of current family structure such as sibling composition, the marital status of parent or child, or competing roles (Coward & Dwyer, 1990; Matthews, 1987; Soldo, Wolf, & Agree, 1990; Stoller & Pugliesi, 1989). Studies devoted to parent-adult child coresidence often do not differentiate between arrangements where adult children coreside with parents and arangements where the parent or parents coreside with the adult child. Consequently, they confound factors related to adult children's dependency on their parents with variables associated with children's willingness to care for their parents. Most of these investigations also fail to include detailed indicators of childhood living arrangements as predictors of coresidence (Aquilino, 1990; Brody, Litvin, Hoffman, & Kleban, 1995; Crimmins & Ingegneri, 1990; Ward & Spitze, 1994; Ward, Logan, & Spitze, 1992). In contrast, research dealing with the effects of childhood living arrangements has focused on outcomes such as personal adjustment, socioeconomic attainment, and interactions and supports between the parent and the adult child (Amato, 1991; Amato & Keith, 1991; Aquilino, 1994a, 1994b; Rossi & Rossi, 1990; Whitbeck, Hoyt, & Huck, 1994; Whitbeck, Simons, & Conger, 1991). These latter studies provide considerable evidence of the long-range effects of childhood living arrangements on later kin relationships, but they do not address how such living arrangements may influence children's propensity to take older parents into their homes.

This study expands earlier research on parentadult child coresidence by exploring whether childhood living arrangements influence adult children's attitudes toward taking a parent into their home and whether adult children ever did have a parent live with them.


Taking parents into one's home and attitudes about parental coresidence constitute dimensions of intergenerational solidarity (Bengtson & Roberts, 1991). Parental coresidence is a special case of functional solidarity (exchange of supports or resources), and attitudes about parental coresidence represent an example of normative solidarity ("strength of commitment to performance of family roles and to meeting familial obligations," Bengtson & Roberts, 1991, p. 857).

Several authors have proposed theoretical models of intergenerational solidarity. Bengtson and his colleagues (Bengtson & Roberts, 1991; Silverstein, Parrott, & Bengtson, 1995) view functional solidarity foremost as an outcome of normative and affectional solidarity ("positive sentiments about family members"; Bengtson & Roberts, 1991, p. 857) and of opportunity structures. Relying on exchange theory as well as Tonnies' concept of Gemeinschaft, these authors argue that exchanges of supports between generations reflect, on the one hand, feelings of obligation about the provision of specific supports and, on the other hand, affection between parents and (adult) children. …

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