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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2008 May;63(3):S154-61.

Routine assistance to parents: effects on daily mood and other stressors.

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  • 1Center for Gerontology, Virginia Polytechnic and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA.



The present study examined the association of providing assistance to older parents amid everyday circumstances and short-term psychological consequences for adult children providing assistance.


We explored this association using 824 daily diary interviews of 119 adult children providing assistance in the National Study of Daily Experiences by using a left-censored random effects tobit regression model that accounted for the clustered data and floor effects in reported psychological distress.


Psychological distress was higher on days adult children provided assistance to their parent (b = 0.88, p <.05) even after we controlled for situational variables such as time spent on daily paid work, time spent on leisure activities, and assistance provided to individuals other than parents. Demographic and psychosocial variables such as having resident children (b = 2.14, p <.01), less education (b = -0.54, p <.05), and neuroticism (b = 2.08, p <.05), also predicted daily psychological distress.


Even after we controlled for within-person (daily situational variables) and between-person factors (background characteristics), the act of providing assistance itself had immediate associations with daily mood for helpers, particularly for those with fewer resources and greater demands on time. Feasibility and success of programs that provide respite and relief services to older adults and their children should be assessed in light of daily living.

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