Beyond the Empty Nest: A syndrome or the prime of life?

With increased longevity, relations between parents and adult children are lasting longer and are far more common than ever before.

Early studies of late-life parenting focused on what was then called the “Empty Nest” – the experience of parents (primarily mothers) when their children moved out of the home. These studies argued that mothers lost a central aspect of their identity when their children left home and researchers reported increased rates of depression and alcohol dependence during this period. Eventually “the Empty Nest Syndrome” became a focus of research and intervention.

But all was not gloom and doom. Some early studies hinted at improved marital relationships and psychological adjustment during the empty nest period. And subsequent reports were consistently positive with some going so far as to describe the post-parental period as “the prime of life” for women. Though their approaches varied, these researchers focused on mothers, accepting – without question it seems – the centrality of the parental role for women, but not for men.

Arguing that modern families have moved well beyond the Empty Nest, Professor Amanda Barusch of the University of Otago seeks a deeper  understanding of the these experiences. She is seeking New Zealand parents (both mother and father, aged 50 or more) of adult children who are about to or who have moved out within the past four years.She is also seeking young adults (18 years or older) who will or who have recently moved out of home.

For more information on the study, to contact the researcher or apply for the study, please click here, or visit the study listing at…