Everyday support to aging parents: Links to middle-aged children’s diurnal cortisol and daily mood
Oxford University Press
Purpose of the Study: Middle-aged adults are often called upon to support aging parents. However, providing support to an aging parent with health problems and disability may be a stressful experience. This study asked whether giving everyday support to parents in the context of health problems and disability has implications for middle-aged children’s diurnal cortisol and daily mood. Design and Methods: During four consecutive days, 148 middle-aged adults (mean age = 55) reported the support they gave to their parents and provided saliva 4 times a day (wake, 30 min post-wake, lunchtime, and bedtime). Multilevel models estimated within-person differences in positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA), cortisol awakening response and area under the curve with respect to ground (AUC-G) as a function of giving same-day and previous-day support. We examined whether these associations are exacerbated when a parent has health problems or activities of daily living (ADL) needs. Results: Middle-aged children had significantly higher next-day AUC-G on days after they gave support to parents with ADL needs. When participants gave support to parents with ADL needs, they had significantly greater same-day PA and lower next-day NA. Giving support to parents with health problems was associated with significantly higher next-day NA. Implications: Giving support to parents is an ambiguous experience with implications for biological stress and daily mood. A biopsychosocial approach reveals under what conditions giving support to parents may become detrimental to health and well-being; this knowledge is essential for the development and implementation of interventions.
Bangerter, L. R., Liu, Y., Kim, K., Zarit, S. H., Birditt, K. S., and Fingerman, K. (2017). Everyday support to aging parents: Links to middle-aged children’s diurnal cortisol and daily mood. The Gerontologist. Online first publication. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnw207