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Parent Sci Pract. 2016 Apr 2;16(2):87-107. Epub 2016 Feb 19.

Parental Identity and Its Relation to Parenting and Psychological Functioning in Middle Age.

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Agora Center, University of Jyväskylä , P.O. Box 35, 40014 University of Jyväskylä, Finland.
University of Jyväskylä


Objective. This article focuses on identity as a parent in relation to parenting and psychological functioning in middle age. Design. Drawn from the Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development, 162 participants (53% females) with children (age 36), represented the Finnish age-cohort born in 1959. Parental identity was assessed at ages 36, 42, and 50. Results. In both women and men, parental identity achievement increased from age 36 to 42 and remained stable to 50. The level of parental identity achievement was higher in women than in men. Achievement was typical for women and foreclosure for men. Participants' education, occupational status, and number of offspring were not related to parental identity status. As expected, parental identity achievement was associated with authoritative (indicated by higher nurturance and parental knowledge about the child's activities) parenting style. No significant associations emerged between parental identity foreclosure and restrictiveness as an indicator of authoritarian parenting style. The diffused men outscored others in parental stress. Achieved parental identity was related to generativity in both genders and to higher psychological and social well-being in men. Conclusions. At present, many parenting programs are targeted to young parents. This study highlighted the importance of a later parenting phase at around age 40, when for many, the children are approaching puberty. Therefore, parenting programs and support should also be designed for middle-aged parents. Specifically men may need additional support for their active consideration and engagement in the fathering role.

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