Linked lives : Young adults’ life course and relations with parents

A.J.E.H. Bucx

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


The focal point of this dissertation is the middle phase of the parent-child relationship. During this phase children are in young adulthood (roughly 18 to 35 years of age) and parents are in early old age (roughly 50 to 75 years of age). The phase of young adulthood marks the transition from the youth and adolescent phase to the period of adulthood. The guiding theoretical principle for this research was that of ‘linked lives’ (Elder, 1994), part of the life course perspective (Elder, 1985). Based on this principle, it is assumed that the parent-child relationship continues to play an important role in the life of both parent and child in the middle phase, but that the character of this relationship is influenced by transitions in the life of the young adult child. In general, the results of this dissertation are consistent with the principle of ‘linked lives’. One important finding is that there is a great deal of solidarity between parents and young adult children in this phase of the life course. Generally speaking, young adults have a satisfactory relationship with their parents, maintain regular contact, and regularly exchange both emotional and practical forms of support. Young adults’ opinions in the domain of family relationships show a large degree of consistency with those of their parents. After leaving the parental home, young adults tend to live in relatively close geographic proximity to their parents, especially when parent-child relationships were experienced as satisfactory and close in earlier phases of the life course. At the same time, the character and form of parent-child relationships is also related to the specific life course phase of the young adult child. There is a certain degree of distancing between parents and their young adult children when the latter leave the parental home and begin living together with a partner: Contact with parents becomes less frequent, children experience the emotional bond as less close, there is less exchange of support, and opinions on family relationships start to show greater divergence. There is less frequent contact between young adults and their parents when the latter do not get along well with the young adult’s partner, and when the young adult’s relationship with parents-in-law is experienced as pleasant. Parents provide less financial support as their children begin to acquire greater financial means. The birth of a child appears to blow new life into the bond between parents and children: Contact is intensified, in part because (grand)parents help with childcare; moreover, young adults with children tend to live closer to their parents than young adults without children. The results also suggest that when young adults have children of their own, they tend to revert back to the opinions of their parents. The character of the parental bond appears to change as well; in the emotional domain there is greater distance. Besides the life course of the young adult child, the life course of the parent also plays an important role: There is less contact with parents when the latter have divorced. When one of the parents has died, contact with the other parent becomes even more intense.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Knijn, Trudie, Primary supervisor
  • Hagendoorn, A.J.M.W., Supervisor
  • van Wel, F.W., Co-supervisor
Award date6 Nov 2009
Print ISBNs9789081453318
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2009


  • Sociaal-culturele Wetenschappen (SOWE)

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