Monitoring, Scaffolding, Intervening, and Overriding: Adult Children's Perspectives on Supporting Older Parents


When older parents experience age-related functional limitations, adult children may begin to monitor and try to control their parents' behavior. This shift can lead to tension due to differences in values both generations share, with parents prioritizing autonomy and self-sufficiency and adult children prioritizing safety and convention. Although a great deal of research on the transition from adolescence to adulthood focuses on governance transfer and changing boundaries of autonomy, monitoring, and control, less is known about how this happens in later life. The current study used qualitative methodology to explore the dynamic balance of autonomy, safety, and care between older parents and adult children who provide assistance in their daily lives. It focused on which areas adult children were most likely to monitor and try to control and how they did so, how parents respond to those efforts, and the dynamics of information management. Sixteen adult children who had at least one living parent (M-age = 53, SD = 6.1) discussed the challenges of managing two conflicting caregiving goals: respecting parents' autonomy and ensuring parents' moral well-being, health, and safety. Data were analyzed using directive content analysis. Although participants were concerned about the negative consequences of their parents' current behaviors and health conditions, they rarely impinged on their parents' autonomy until they were prompted by an authority figure or had clear evidence that their parents' health or safety were threatened. Parents often kept information about their activities and well-being from their children in order to protect their autonomy. Implications for balancing parents and adult children's goals of governance transfer are discussed.


Springer/Plenum Publishers

Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Adult Development



Document Type




Family support, Intergenerational relations, Caregiving, Older adults, Monitoring, Information management