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You’re never too old to feel parental anguish

Raising kids can occasionally be tough on a parent’s mental health -- and the anguish may not ease when the kids become adults. Poorer emotional health and well-being are found among parents of grown children when those children have troubled lives, according to new research.

Researchers questioned 633 middle-aged parents of a total of 1,251 adult children. They found that having even one problem-ridden child -- such as someone who is unemployed, incarcerated, addicted, ill, or in financial straits -- increased the risk of low psychological well-being in the parent. The more troubled children they had, the worse the parents’ mental health. Parents who have multiple children who were all successful had better psychological well-being compared with parents whose adult children all had problems or parents who had a mix of successful and problem-ridden children.

The majority of parents in the study -- 60% -- said they had a mix of successful and less successful children.

“What this study finds is that the children may have their own lives and moved on, but their ups and downs are still deeply affecting their parents,” the lead author of the study, Karen Fingerman, of Purdue University, said in a news release. The study was presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Assn. in San Diego.

Clearly, in any relationship one person’s problems can affect another person’s psychological health. However, the link may be especially strong between parent and child, the authors wrote. Parents may react more strongly to children’s failures than to their successes.

“The relationship is unique ... to the extent that parents may view offspring as an extension of themselves,” they said.

-- Shari Roan / Los Angeles Times

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