Trajectories of parent-child contact, affection, and conflict during the transition to adulthood

  • Author / Creator
    Fang, Shichen
  • The parent-child relationship is one of the most influential and long-lasting social ties for many people. Much research on this relationship focuses on childhood, adolescence, and old age, while parent-child relations during the transition to adulthood remains a relatively understudied area. Additionally, many studies have gathered data from only one parent (usually mother) and the child; a full understanding of parent-child relations requires information from both mother, father, and the child. Guided by a life course perspective on human development, this study examined trajectories of perceived parent-child contact, affection, and conflict in the transition to adulthood, as well as the moderating effect of sex composition of the parent-child dyad on these trajectories. This study also investigated associations of youth life course transitions (leaving the parental home, exiting the education system, initiating a romantic relationship) with parent-child relations, controlling for parent age and education. Data used in this study were collected from a community sample of German parent-child dyads (n = 3,680, 60% mother-child) followed annually from late adolescence (age 17) into the transition to adulthood (until age 22). Dyadic latent growth models revealed that parent-child contact and conflict decreased, and parent-child affection remained stable. Mothers on average had better relations with their children than did fathers, with the mother-daughter relationship being the closest and the father-son relationship being the most vulnerable. Older parents tended to report more parent-child contact but less affection at age 17, while more educated parents experienced a greater decline in contact from ages 17 to 22. Parent-child co-residence was associated with more parent-child contact, more conflict, and more youth-reported affection toward parents. Being a student in secondary, vocational, or post-secondary schooling was related to more parent-child contact and less conflict in the late teens, and less contact in the early 20s. Being in a romantic relationship was linked with less parent-child contact and less parent-reported affection toward children in the late teens, and less conflict and more parent-reported affection in the early 20s. Using a rigorous analytic approach, this study expands upon our knowledge about general patterns and predictors of parent-child relations in an important transitional period of life.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
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