Feeling Caught Between Parents: Adult Children's Relations With Parents and Subjective Well-Being


Department of Sociology, 201 Oswald Tower, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802-6207 (pxa6@psu.edu).


Research on divorce has found that adolescents’ feelings of being caught between parents are linked to internalizing problems and weak parent-child relationships. The present study estimates the effects of marital discord, as well as divorce, on young adult offspring's feelings of being caught in the middle (N =632). Children with parents in high-conflict marriages were more likely than other children to feel caught between parents. These feelings were associated with lower subjective well-being and poorer quality parent-child relationships. Offspring with divorced parents were no more likely than offspring with continuously married parents in low-conflict relationships to report feeling caught. Feelings of being caught appeared to fade in the decade following parental divorce. These results suggest that, unlike children of divorce, children with parents in conflicted marriages (who do not divorce) may be unable to escape from their parents’ marital problems—even into adulthood.