Managing Parallel Life Stages: A Quantitative Study of Psychological Wellbeing, Satisfaction with Life, and Parental Sense of Competence in Parents at Midlife

Prof Doc Thesis

Jordan, A. 2017. Managing Parallel Life Stages: A Quantitative Study of Psychological Wellbeing, Satisfaction with Life, and Parental Sense of Competence in Parents at Midlife. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London Psychology
AuthorsJordan, A.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Being a parent at midlife often entails the management of significant biological, cognitive, emotive, and psychosocial changes. This is often accompanied by increased responsibility in the home and work domains. Those who are parents at midlife will often have a child in adolescence, whose cognitive maturation may pose additional challenges to the status quo of an established family system. For twenty years, researchers have recognised the potential interaction of midlife themes in the parent with the challenges of parenting an adolescent. However, no studies to date have explicitly investigated the presence of these midlife themes, their possible interaction with the parent-child relationship, and the effects on parental wellbeing.
89 participants: 72 mothers and 17 fathers, completed an online questionnaire, comprised of measures of depression, anxiety, stress, self-esteem and satisfaction with life. The questionnaire also included devised questions on two key themes of midlife: growth and decline, and facing one’s own mortality, along with questions identifying the presence of protection and resilience factors, and the quality of the parent-child relationship. It was hypothesised that a) there would be differences in psychological wellbeing between parents parenting a firstborn child in adolescence, as opposed to a different life stage b) that mothers would score lower in psychological wellbeing than fathers, and c) that those parenting a child in the adolescent transition would show lower levels of parental sense of competence than those parenting a child at a different life stage.

Psychological wellbeing scores were largely within an average range, but significant differences were found in depression and stress: the MLA group (16-22 years) reported significantly less depression than the IEC group (0-8 years), the AT group (9-15 years) and the AD group (23+ years). They also reported lower levels of anxiety and stress, and higher levels of self-esteem and satisfaction with life than the other three groups, but these differences were non-significant. The IEC group reported significantly more stress than the other three groups. They also reported lower levels of self-esteem and satisfaction with life than most other groups. These differences were non-significant, however. No significant differences in wellbeing were found between mothers and fathers. Across all age categories, parental sense of competence was within an average range and no significant differences were found across child ages. Medium to strong agreement was found for the majority of the questions relating to midlife themes, and the parent-child relationship was found to be largely rewarding, but also less fulfilling in some aspects.

The study provides an indication of differences in parental psychological wellbeing, according to the age of the firstborn child. It also shows similarities of experience with regard to midlife themes, and areas for further investigation in the nature of the parent-child relationship. This has implications for counselling psychologists working with midlife parents, as it reveals the complexities of parenting at this life stage, and the need to consider developmental issues regarding the life stage of the parent and child simultaneously. Suggestions are made for further research.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintNov 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited12 Jun 2018
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