The Negative Impact of Adult Children’s Marital Dissolution on Older Parents’ Mental Health in South Korea

Pei Chun Ko*, Pildoo Sung

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Little is known about whether and the extent children’s marital dissolution deteriorates older parents’ mental health. This study examines the association of children’s marital dissolution with parents’ mental health, and whether children’s gender and intergenerational contact and support moderate such an association in South Korea, where family lives are strongly linked under the Confucian collectivistic legacy.

Methods: We apply fixed-effects models on 15,584 parent–child dyads nested in 5,673 older parents (45–97 years in Wave 1) participating in the four waves of the Korean Longitudinal Study of Aging (KLoSA), conducted from 2006 to 2012.

Results: In South Korea, a son’s transition to marital dissolution is associated with higher levels of parents’ depressive symptoms. Frequent parent–son contacts of at least once a week, living with a son, and increasing financial transfers from parents to a son tend to reduce the negative association of the son’s marital dissolution with parents’ depressive symptoms.

Discussion: The findings imply that a son’s transition to marital dissolution, as a later-life stressor, is detrimental to parents’ mental health in a patrilineal Asian cultural context. The study also highlights the importance of intergenerational bonding in mitigating the negative impact of children’s marital dissolution upwardly transmitted to their older parents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1721-1731
Number of pages11
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

User-Defined Keywords

  • Gender
  • Intergenerational financial transfers
  • Linked lives
  • Parent–child contacts
  • Stress-process model


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