The parenting is never over--nor is the pain of setbacks for our kids, even when they're grown up and in charge of their lives. A few posts ago, I looked at some insights about our kid's pain becoming our pain--bearing witness to the adage, we're only as happy as our unhappiest child.
That said, researchers at Cornell report yet another study on the topic. The findings: The ramifications of our children's pain goes well beyond causing us unhappiness. The parent-child relationship is a two-way street throughout life, with adult children having a profound effect on their parents’ psychological well-being.
The study reports that older mothers--women well past those menopausal and empty nester years--are prone to depression if their adult children struggle with serious problems such as financial difficulties or alcohol or drug abuse. According to co-author Karl Pillemer, a professor of gerontology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, the lifelong bonds of attachment are so powerful that, even among mothers (dads were not included in the study) in their late 70s and 80s, problems in their children’s lives profoundly affect their mental health. Pillemer says he has interviewed 100-year-olds who were still worried about their 78-year-old children.
The researchers had expected that the mothers--they interviewed more than 350--would be more depressed if the adult child they felt closest to or expected help from struggled with serious issues. It turned out that worry is an equal opportunity angst. Regardless of favorites, the moms were deeply concerned about what happens to all of their offspring. A ne'er do well is still an open wound that moms fret and worry about--even when those ne-er do wells have children and grandchildren of their own, children and Grands about whom they worry and whose pain afflicts them.