Parents' Psychological Process of Caregiver-Recipient Role Reversal From Children's Perspectives


The magnitude of intergenerational ambivalence tends to increase when the expected roles of parents as a caregiver and children as a care recipient become reversed as parents age (Lüscher, 2002). However, little is known about the psychological process of this role reversal, particularly the negotiation of parents’ autonomy and adult children’s authority over parents’ autonomy. This pilot study explored the process of parents’ information control about their everyday life to maintain their autonomy. Sixteen adult children were invited to focus groups (Mage = 53, SD = 6.1, Males = 3) through local churches. Content analysis (Weber, 1990) revealed that participants believed that their parents were unwilling to disclose six kinds of issues: use of medication, new physical symptoms, financial aids to own children, the content of their living wills, death preparation, and presence of debts. For reasons for parents’ unwillingness to talk about these issues, participants provided several points. First, their parents wanted to maintain autonomy by strategically managing information on their medication use and property management to maintain autonomy. Second, parents did not want to disclose their new disease symptoms until the symptoms got serious to avoid being caregiving burden of their children and/or disliked to go through extra-medical exams. Third, because of death anxiety, certain topics were taboo for adult children to talk about (e.g., death preparation). These findings suggest that parents’ psychological process during role reversal between aging parents and adult children include not only parents’ information control but also parents’ anxiety of aging and death.


Oxford University Press

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Innovation in Aging



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