More Middle-Aged Adults Care for Kids and Aging Parents

Though middle-aged caregivers of aging parents are feeling a financial burden due to the need to help support at times adult children, the upside is that close family bonds are being created. Though stress can be a burden on relationships, the following study shows that closer emotional bonds are being created. The cooperation of family is a vital component to successful long-term care.

The financial burdens on middle-aged caregivers — the so-called “sandwich generation” — are increasing, a new survey finds.

About 15% of U.S. adults in their 40s and 50s provided financial support to both an aging parent and a child in 2012, according to a survey of 2,511 adults from the Pew Social and Demographic Trends Project. That’s up from 12% in 2005. And almost half (47%) of those currently raising or financially supporting a child have a parent 65 or older still living, who may require support in the future.

But the survey finds that more emphasis is on supporting grown children. About 48% of adults 40 to 59 provided financial support to grown children in 2012, findings show, up from 42% in 2005.

The increase reflects economic challenges, says Kim Parker, a co-author of the report. “Grown children are struggling to find jobs and establish themselves in the economy.”

But there is an upside, says Parker, an associate director with the Pew Social and Demographic Trends Project. “The middle-aged adults who are supporting their grown children financially report that they have stronger emotional ties with those children.”

Members of the sandwich generation report feeling closer to their children than to their parents, Parker adds. “Generations relying on each other may create stronger ties.”

Despite their growing burdens, middle-aged caregivers are just as happy as other adults, the survey suggests. About 31% say they are very happy with their lives, compared with 28% of other adults. But they are more likely to feel pressed for time: 31% of those in the sandwich generation say they always feel rushed, compared with 23% of other adults.

What happens to families when the burdens rain down?

Stephanie Coontz, director of research and public education of the Council on Contemporary Families, a non-profit organization based at the University of Miami, says stress can contribute to the deterioration of relationships. But she says many families report that they are closer.

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