Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Middle Adulthood (40–60)

What changes take place in the relationships between middle-aged adults and their parents?

The vast majority of adults in middle adulthood will experience the aging and even death of their parents. As their parents’ physical and cognitive abilities deteriorate, adult children must take on a caretaking role. The extent to which the children take on such responsibilities will vary from family to family but some degree of role reversal between parent and adult child is largely unavoidable. The financial, medical, and supervisory aspects of elder care can be extremely complex, particularly in modern, industrialized societies in which both women and men work outside the home.

Psychologically, the role reversal between elderly parent and middle-aged child can be difficult. Besides the obvious stress of the new responsibilities, there is a sense of sadness at the loss of the parental figure. Even though the middle-aged adult is fully mature and handles significant responsibilities, it is still upsetting to realize there are no more “grown-ups” to fall back upon. It is the children who are the grown-ups now, not the parents.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Psychology Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App