Most people agree with the idea that families have a responsibility to care for older family members. Yet some changes in family life have brought up new questions about caring for the elderly. What happens when a parent divorces and then remarries later in life? Should adult children care for the stepparent as well as the parent? ese questions are becoming more and more important as individuals live longer and growing numbers of older adults divorce and remarry. Researchers from the University of Missouri sampled over 1000 men and women from across the U.S. to nd out how adults viewed responsibilities to parents and stepparents. In telephone interviews, researchers presented stories describing a family dilemma and asked how much help the younger adult should give to the parent or stepparent. For example, the parent remarries aer being a widower, and aer a few years dies very suddenly. Should his son help the stepmother with things around the house, even though they have never gotten along? What if the stepmother has more serious health problems: Should the son help care for her? What if the older adult is a parent? Should the son provide this care? (Gonong & Coleman, 2006). Results showed that adult children were expected to help parents more than stepparents, out of a sense of obligation and to repay parents for past help. Stepparents who came into families later in life generally were not seen as family members, and, as a result, were not automatically entitled to caregiving aid. However, the quality of the relationship also inuenced the duty to help both parents and stepparents. When the relationship was good, Caring for Stepparents in Later Life1Suzanna Smith2 1. This document is FAR4010, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Broadcast as program 514. Published on EDIS March 2012. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modied. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.u.edu 2. Suzanna Smith, associa te professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or aliations. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Millie Ferrer-Chancy, Interim Dean Credits: Stockbyte
2 respondents were more likely to think that help should be given. is research suggests stepparents of all ages have to earn family bonds by building a history and developing positive emotional ties with stepchildren (Gonong & Coleman, 2006). Listening, learning, and living together: its the science of life. Family Album is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If youd like to learn more, please visit our website at http://www.familyalbumradio.org To listen to the radio broadcast: http://www.radiosource.net/radio_stories/514.mp3 http://www.radiosource.net/radio_stories/514.wavReferencesGonong, L., and Coleman, M. (2006). Obligations to stepparents acquired in later life: Relationship quality and acuity of needs. e Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 61, S80-S88.