Perceptions of Closeness in Adult Parent–Child Dyads: Asymmetry in the Context of Family Complexity

K.L. van Houdt, M. Kalmijn, K. Ivanova

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Multi-actor data show that parents’ and adult children’s evaluations of their relation do not necessarily match. We studied disagreement in parent- and child-reported closeness, comparing parent–child dyads involving separated parents, non-separated parents, and stepparents to shed new light on today’s diverse landscape of adult parent–child relations.
Using data from the Parents and Children in the Netherlands (OKiN) survey, we analyzed closeness in parent–child dyads (N = 4,602) comparing (step)parents’ and their adult children’s (aged 25–45) reports. To distinguish directional disagreement (i.e., differences in child- and parent-reported means) from nondirectional disagreement (i.e., the association between child- and parent-reported measures), while accounting for absolute levels of closeness, we estimated log-linear models.
All types of parents tend to report higher levels of closeness than their children. Whereas parental overreport is more prevalent among biological father–child dyads than among biological mother–child dyads, we found no differences between biological dyads and stepdyads. The association between children’s and parents’ reports is higher among dyads involving stepmothers or married mothers than among those involving separated mothers and (step)fathers.
The intergenerational stake (i.e., parental overreport) is not unique to biological parent–child relations. Instead, patterns of disagreement seem most strongly stratified by gender.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbergbaa122
Pages (from-to)2219–2229
JournalThe Journals of Gerontology, Series B
Issue number10
Early online date10 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • affectional solidarity
  • family complexity
  • Multi-actor data
  • parent-child relations


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