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Aging Parents Helping Adult Children: The Experience of the Sandwiched Generation


  • Berit Ingersoll-Dayton,

    Corresponding author
    1. Berit Ingersoll-Dayton is Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor.
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  • Margaret B. Neal,

    1. Margaret B. Neal is affiliated with the Institute on Aging and is Professor of Community Health in the School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University in Oregon.
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  • Leslie B. Hammer

    1. Leslie B. Hammer is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Portland State University in Oregon.
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  • *This paper was presented as part of a symposium, “Dual-earner couples in the sandwiched generation: Findings from a national study,” M. B. Neal and L. B. Hammer (co-chairs), at the 52nd annual scientific meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, November 1999, San Francisco, CA. Funding for this research was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (Grant 96–10–20) to Margaret B. Neal and Leslie B. Hammer, co-principal investigators. The authors would like to thank David Morgan for his consultation and assistance with the focus groups; Jo Isgrigg, Krista Brockwood, and Emily Huang for their help with recruitment of focus group and survey participants, script and instrument design, and data collection and analysis; and Anne Martin-Matthews and Carolyn Rosenthal for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.

**Address correspondence to: Berit Ingersoll-Dayton, School of Social Work, The University of Michigan, 1080 South University, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.


The help that elders provide to their adult children has received limited attention in the caregiving literature. To address this gap, data were drawn from two samples of caregiving couples: 63 focus group participants and 618 survey respondents. Survey results indicated that help from aging parents is associated with a complex pattern of benefits and costs. Focus group data identified the kinds of help provided by older parents (i.e., financial, emotional, child care, and household tasks) and illuminated why caregivers experience such help as a mixed blessing. Suggestions are offered for practitioners who work with caregivers.