Widowhood with their fathers, there is a much larger

Widowhood has been shown in the literature to have a very different
effect on relations between adult children and surviving mothers or surviving
fathers (Bumpass and Sweet, 1991; Eggebeen, 1992). Adult children keep close
relationships with their widowed mothers- at least as close as adult children
with mothers who are still married. In contrast, father-adult child relations
deteriorate when the mother dies first. These results possibly reflect the
degree to which father-adult child relationships are supported and by mothers
when both parents are alive (Rossi and Rossi, 1990). Mothers may act as an
intermediary and facilitate contact between their spouses and their children by
acting as channel of information between father and offspring. When the mother
dies and there is no longer an intermediary figure, fathers and children may
have difficulty in their relationship with each other.

While the literature
shows that after a mother’s death, there is only a small impact on children’s
views of the quality of their relationship with their fathers, there is a much
larger effect on contact between father and child. This shows that subjective
feelings remain stable, but practicalities of the father-child relationship
such as visits or telephone calls diminish. When both the mother and father are
alive and married, it is often mothers who facilitate circumstances of
father-adult child communication. Findings from literature seem to show that in
many instances, after the family experiences the mother’s death, neither the
widower or his adult children take on the task of organising opportunities for
social interaction and and maintaining communication.

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Furthermore, the impact
of widowhood on father-adult child relations varies with the gender of the
child. After the death of the mother, father-daughter relationships are very
vulnerable and deteriorate greatly- the literature shows much lower levels of
contact and relationship quality. By contrast, mother’s death has only a weak
negative influence on father-son contact and has no significant impact on
father-son relationship quality.

A possible explanation
for these interaction effects seen for the gender of the adult child is that
the mother’s role as a mediator of father-daughter interaction is greater than
her role in the mediation of the father-son relationship. Sons and fathers
might feel that they have more in common with each other than daughters and
fathers. Fathers may find it easier to discover mutually enjoyable activities
with sons than with daughters, for example sports related activities. It may be
harder for widowed fathers to find common ground with their daughters without
help from the mother. This is all speculation, however, and further research is
needed in this area to establish the processes at play here.

parental divorce has effects on intergenerational help and financial exchange
patterns. Based on adult child reports from the literature, divorce has no
impact on the help and financial support that adult sons and daughters give to
parents. However, sons’ receipt of help and financial support is significantly
lesser if parents are divorced, while daughters’ receipt is not affected. A possible
explanation for this is that sons’ receipt of help is connected more to their
relationship with their fathers, while daughters’ is connected more to their
relations with their mothers. As later life divorce affects father-child more
than mother-child relationships, sons would be likelier than daughters to lose
support after the breakdown of their parents’ marriage. The NSFH data is weak
in this area, as it does not indicate the gender of the parent in the adult
child records of patterns of financial transfers and help exchange. Thus the interpretation
of the connections between parental divorce and exchange of support must be
taken with caution, as increases in exchange of support with one parent may be
offset by decreases in exchange of support with the other.

literature’s findings for parent-adult child exchange of support follow the
theory that the effect of widowhood on parent-adult child relationships varies
with the gender of the child and the gender of the parent. Mothers’ deaths have
been found to result in both less giving of support and less receipt of support
by daughters. This indicates that adult daughters link with their mothers when
giving and receiving help (emotionally and financially), and help is less
likely to be given to/from daughters if the mother has died. Mothers’ deaths,
by way of contrast, have little effect on sons’ exchange of help with their
widowed father. Sons are just as likely to give/receive support from their
widowed fathers as they are with parents that are both still alive and married,
but the fathers’ death leads sons to be less likely to receive help. These results
indicate a gender-specific pattern of support exchange between adult children
and their parents, and highlight the importance of constellation of gender in
parent-child dyads, rather than individual gender effects. This is backed up by
research which indicates that adult children have a higher likelihood of
providing support to ill elderly parents which are the same gender as them (Lee, Dwyer, & Coward, 1993).

Both daughters
and sons have a decreased likelihood of receiving help financially after their
father dies. This is most likely a reflection of the changed economic position
in the family of origin due to the father’s passing, as the father usually has
a higher income than the mother. Death of the mother has no effect on financial
support given to children. Widowed fathers are as well-equipped as married parents
to provide financial assistance to their adult children.


What this review of literature regarding later-life marital dissolution
surmises is that children raised in intact, two-parent families are not
necessarily spared from the effects of marital breakdown. Changes in the
structure of the family of origin that occur later in life still shape the
parent-child relationship. The literature has shown that the marital dyad and
the parent-child dyad influence each other significantly, even when children
are grown up and living independently from the family of origin.