Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology

Empty Nest Syndrome and Psychological Wellbeing among Middle Aged Adults

Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology

Empty Nest Syndrome and Psychological Wellbeing among Middle Aged Adults

Article excerpt

Family love is just like love of birds living together in a nest. In life, there comes a point where young one's fly away and start living their lives independently. Launching of children is a cycle in which children move into adulthood and set their goals, develop their identity and become more independent. Parents usually deal with the absence of their children when they leave the house to establish their own families. Sometimes children leave home due to marriages, or in pursuance of higher education or career. Previous studies have indicated that parents react differently on the departure of their children. Kearney (2002) postulated that parents especially women become depressed when their children leave their homes forever. Empty nest syndrome is an unhappy sad feeling and negative emotional disturbance which parents experience when their children leave them. Cavan (1965) years back described empty nest stage as the with drawl of children from home, the most drastic transition in the lives of parents which leaves husband and wife together as a family unit. Empty nest syndrome mostly affects the women as their lives are centered around home responsibilities. Lopata (1966) named this transition in middle age as "shrinking circle stage" during which a middle aged housewife no longer gets gratification from her roles as a wife and mother and she tries to get herself engaged in community services as a replacement for the loss of these roles.

Westberg (1971) proposed that parents encounter great loss and feeling of grief when their children leave apart. He described the empty nest syndrome as "Another grief situation may center on the children of a family. A child is lost not through death but through marriage. He takes all his belongings from his room and the house is lifeless. A house once filled with laughter and joy is now as quiet as a tomb" (p. 17-18). He stated that grief is the reaction on the departure of the children. Grief is expressed as being upset, lack of emotional expression, feelings of depression and loneliness, distress, guilt and then acceptance. He postulated that all, some or none of the parents may demonstrate these grief reactions while passing through empty nest syndrome.

Mbaeze and Ukwandu's (2011) study indicated that people experienced empty-nest syndrome not only due to departure of children from home but their own physical health issues did not let them move on to new adjustment. Furthermore, the study indicated that empty nest syndrome was an outcome of death of spouse, retirement, children leaving their homes, and menopause. Similarly, Kitson's (1982) study indicated that 42 percent of divorced women were at a high risk of empty nest syndrome and had concerns regarding how to deal with a single life. Horn (1976) also postulated empty nest syndrome as a hard blow to widows and the divorced women.

The effect of the empty nest syndrome can be critically reviewed in the light of the perspectives on role identity and role change. Role identity perspective postulates that more the role identities one has the better one off is. As we lose roles in life, we encounter psychological disturbances (Thoit, 1983). This leads us to predict that the children's departure from home will decrease parental psychological wellbeing. Role change perspective postulates that change in role whether assuming or giving up can have an adverse effect on physical and psychological health (Holmes & Rahe, 1967). Studies have found that parenting is a stressful task (MacLanahan & Adams 1987) whereas decades ago a survey reported that empty nest mothers were happier as compared to mothers who had their children at home (Horn, 1976).

There are many factors affecting empty nest syndrome in mothers and fathers. Among them, gender of parents, education, single parenting, aging and cultural variations are significant. There are many reasons of child's departure from home, it might be due to marriage, higher education and career. …

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