Karl Pillemer, PhD, Catherine Riffin, PhD, J. Jill Suitor, PhD, Siyun Peng, MS, M. C. Reid, MD, PhD; The Impact of Older Parents’ Pain Symptoms on Adult Children. Pain Med 2017 pnw320. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnw320
Objective. Not only is persistent pain a debilitating health problem for older adults, it also may have negative effects on family relationships. Studies have documented the effects of pain on spouses and on parents of young children. However, research has not extended this line of inquiry to later life, and specifically to the impact of older parents’ pain symptoms on adult children. This study addresses the question: Does older mothers’ pain affect the quality of relations with offspring?
Subjects and Design. Using data from a survey of 678 adult children of older mothers, this article presents two analyses examining the impact of mothers’ self-reported pain on emotional closeness and on tension in the adult child-parent relationship.
Results. Contrary to research conducted on younger families, multilevel models showed no effects on emotional closeness or tension in relationships with adult children when mothers experienced higher levels of persistent pain. This surprising finding suggests that mechanisms may exist that protect adult child caregivers from stressors that result from a relative’s chronic pain.
Conclusions. Based on the findings of this article, further exploration of the impact of chronic pain on relations between adult children and their parents is justified. Of interest is exploration of factors that may insulate later-life intergenerational relationships from the effects of pain.