Psychology and Aging, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 177 - 189
Psychology and Aging
According to family systems theory, strains from parenting an adult with disabilities may spill over to parents' relationships with their other children and disrupt family dynamics and their well-being in later-life. This study examined whether parental ambivalence toward their nondisabled children is greater in families of adults with disabilities (developmental disabilities [DD] or serious mental illnesses [SMI]) than families without any adult children with disabilities. The study also investigated whether ambivalence mediates the associations between having an adult child with DD or SMI and parents' health. Data were from the 2011 Wisconsin Longitudinal Study in which aging parents (Mage = 71; n = 6,084) were asked about their relationship with each of their adult children. Multilevel regression models and multilevel structural equation models were estimated to analyze the data. Our findings showed that parents of an adult with SMI felt greater ambivalence toward their nondisabled adult children than comparison group parents of adult children without disabilities, whereas no significant differences were found between parents of an adult child with DD and comparison group parents. Parental ambivalence toward their nondisabled adult children played a significant indirect role in the negative association between having a child with SMI and parental physical and mental health. The findings have implications for clinical practice with aging families of adults with disabilities and suggest the need for additional research to better understand intergenerational parent-adult child dynamics in these families. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).