Parent-child Relations Throughout Life

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Families are both affectional and obligatory systems. Love and obligation characterize all enduring human relationships. Parents not only love their children, they are obligated to provide care and support for them to maturity. Obligations of adult children to their elderly parents require them to provide care and nurturance, reciprocating for their earlier receipt of such benefits. In some cases, physically and mentally disabled adults are perpetual burdens to their aging parents. In other cases, adult children are caring for aging parents with dementia. Obligations continue in many varieties of parent-child relationships across the life span. Understanding the affectional and obligatory systems of families today requires the perspectives of parents, as well as children, and of variation as well as norms. This book addresses both aspects of parent-child relationships. The study investigates individual differences among relationships between parents and their children at any age. There are chapters on individual differences in early interactions between infant and preschoool siblings and their parents, on daughters' and sons' relationships with mothers and fathers, and on age changes in relational obligations and affection. Relationships between parents and their children undergo profound changes as children develop and as parents enter new life stages. Developmental psychology has too often ignored the developing adult, whose parenting role changes dramatically from young adulthood and young children, do older adulthood and the children's own maturity. Grandparenthood is yet another life stage: Affectional relations and familial obligations shift from one-sided giving by parents when children are small, to reciprocity in the middle years. This book succeeds in presenting this array of changes in parent-child relations across the life span.

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