Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

J. Jill Suitor

Committee Co-Chair

Mangala Subramaniam

Committee Member 1

James G. Anderson

Committee Member 2

Megan M. Gilligan


Background and Objectives: Past research has examined gender differences between mothers’ and fathers’ ties with their adult children; however, the interdependency between mothering and fathering for adult children was left unexamined. This study addresses this gap by examining the extent to and ways in which parental support to adult children in later life is initiated and negotiated among married couples, and whether these patterns reflect the gendered patterns and practices found in parental involvement earlier in the life course. Research Design and Methods: I conducted in-depth in-person interviews with 34 parents on their ties with each of their adult children. Twenty-three respondents were women; 11 were men. Eight women and 8 men in this sample were married to each other. Findings: Qualitative analysis showed that mothers’ and fathers’ initiation of parental support displayed gendered patterns. Mothers initiated childcare and expressive support more than did fathers, and fathers initiated financial assistance more than did mothers. It is also found that mothers encouraged their husband’s involvement in provision of childcare support, whereas they excluded their husbands from provision of comfort particularly to their adult daughters. In contrast, fathers’ attempts to initiate financial assistance were regarded by their wives as less encouraging of their wife’s involvement. Both mothers and fathers were less likely to encourage their spouse’s involvement when their adult children specifically asked them for advice based on their expertise. The analysis further showed that negotiations around instrumental support were more common than negotiations around expressive support.

Negotiations regarding childcare support and giving advice were shaped by parents’ gendered perceptions, but those regarding financial support and comfort provision were not. Finally, I found that negotiations around childcare support but not comfort provision were common despite the strong association of both types of support with motherhood responsibilities. Discussion and Implications: This study contributes to the literature on intergenerational ties and later-life parenthood by revealing the qualitative meanings and processes behind the gendered patterns in parental support, such as initiation and negotiation of support provision to adult children among married couples. Furthermore, examining the interconnections between mothers’ and fathers’ support to their adult children could expand our understanding of cumulative inequality transmitted through intergenerational support exchanges, and the potential consequences of these interconnections on parents’ well-being and marital ties.