Rifts between parents and their adult children bother parents and cause heartache to them more than it affects the adult children, according to a study.
The tension and aggravation from such rifts affects parents even more if their adult children are older.
"The parent-child relationship is one of the longest lasting social ties human beings establish. This tie is often highly positive and supportive but it also commonly includes feelings of irritation, tension and ambivalence," said Kira Birditt, lead author of the study.
For the study, the researchers analysed data on 474 parents and adult children who were at least 22 years old.
In the study, the researchers asked about tensions related to a variety of topics, including personality differences, past relationship problems, children's finances, housekeeping habits, lifestyles, and how often they contacted each other.
And they found that parents and adult children in the same families had different perceptions of tension intensity, with parents generally reporting more intense tensions than children did particularly regarding issues having to do with the children's lifestyle or behaviour (finances, housekeeping).
Birditt said that the tensions might be more upsetting to parents than to children because parents have invested more in the relationship and are also concerned with launching their children into successful adulthood.
Both mothers and fathers reported more tension in their relationships with daughters than with sons.
Daughters generally have closer relationships with parents that involve more contact, which may provide more opportunities for tensions in the parent-daughter tie.
And both adult sons as well as adult daughters reported more tension with their mothers than with their fathers, particularly about personality differences and unsolicited advice.
Birditt said: "It may be that children feel their mothers make more demands for closeness, or that they are generally more intrusive than fathers."
Surprisingly, she found that parental perceptions of tension increased with the adult children's age, particularly about topics having to do with how they interact (e.g., personality differences).
"Middle-aged children may be less invested in the parent-child tie than young adult children because they're more likely to have formed their own families and experience multiple role demands," she said.
And as parents age and need more from their relationship with adult children, adult children may pull away, creating greater relationship tensions.
The study will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychology and Aging.