Relationship Quality with Parents: Implications for Own and Partner Well-Being in Middle-Aged Couples

Courtney A. Polenick, Steffany J. Fredman, Kira S. Birditt, Steven H. Zarit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


Relationships with parents have significant implications for well-being throughout the lifespan. At midlife, these ties are situated within both developmental and family contexts that often involve the adult offspring's spouse. Yet, it is not known how ties with aging parents are related to psychological well-being within middle-aged couples. This study examined how middle-aged wives’ and husbands’ views of the current quality of relationships with their own parents (positive and negative) are linked to their own and their partner's psychological well-being. Using a sample of 132 middle-aged couples from Wave 1 of the Family Exchanges Study, we estimated actor–partner interdependence models to evaluate these dyadic associations while controlling for each spouse's marital satisfaction. Both actor and partner effects were observed. With respect to actor effects, wives who reported more negative relationship quality with their own parents had elevated depressive symptoms and lower life satisfaction. Husbands who reported more negative relationship quality with their own parents had lower life satisfaction. In terms of partner effects, husbands had lower depressive symptoms and greater life satisfaction when wives reported more positive relationship quality with their own parents. Finally, the link between wives’ positive ties with parents and husbands’ lower depressive symptoms was intensified when husbands had less positive relationships with their own parents. Findings suggest that relationship quality with wives’ aging parents has implications for both spouses’ well-being and may serve as a critical social resource for husbands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-268
Number of pages16
JournalFamily Process
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2018


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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