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Old 7th May 2009, 03:30 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Family arguments get worse with age, scientists find

Family arguments get worse with age, scientists find

Family arguments between parents and children get worse as the offspring get older, a new study has found.

Last Updated: 6:53AM BST 07 May 2009


Psychologists from the University of Michigan, who carried out the study, discovered the biggest aggravation was between parents and grown-up offspring, even when those 'children' are middle-aged themselves.

The tension is worst between adult daughters and their mothers, reversing the traditional image of arguments between fathers and rebellious sons.

But the rows are often about the same basic subject no matter what the age: the children's anger at their parents trying to run their lives.

When young it could be over being told how to dress or to turn the music down but when old it is often about grandparents telling their son or daughter how to bring up their own children.

Psychologists examined the relationship between nearly 500 sets of parents and adult children aged 22 and upwards, in some cases into middle age.

In each case parents and children lived with 50 miles of each other and all were asked to write down details of conversations, problems in the past and perceived personality differences.

Researchers, whose findings are to be published in the journal Psychology and Aging, said: "A majority of parents and adult children experience some tension and aggravation with one another."

Parents feel the tension more acutely than the children and the older the grown-up child, the more the tension felt by their mother or father.

Mothers, in particularly, felt worse than fathers about the relationship with their children and that the biggest problems were with their daughters and their sons.

Daughters also tend to have more contact with their parents than sons which means there is more scope for getting on each other's nerves, said the report's authors.

Kira Birditt, who led the study, said: "The parent-child relationship is one of the longest lasting social ties human beings establish.

"This tie is often highly positive and supportive but it also commonly includes feelings of irritation, tension and ambivalence."

Parents are often more upset with their children than vice versa because they have "more invested in the relationship" said the study.

When parents get upset with their grown-up children it is more likely to be over subjects like the general behaviour or financial matters, it added.

When grown-ups get upset with their parents - and mothers in particular - it is more likely to be because of interfering with the way they are bringing up their own children.

Birditt added: "It may be that children feel their mothers make more demands for closeness or that they are generally more intrusive than fathers.

"Relationship problems like basic personality differences and parents providing unsolicited advice tend to cause more problems."

While most issues can be easily sorted out, tensions may also exist because of deep-rooted personality differences between parent and child, no matter how old the child is.

On a positive note, Birditt found most problems were sorted out constructively by both parents and children and as both parties get older they try more to understand the other's point of view.

She said: "The old adage, 'If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all,' isn't good advice for parents and adult children.

"Avoidance doesn't work as a strategy for dealing with conflicts. It appears to make things worse."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sciencean...ists-find.html

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