Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



This thesis uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative data collected from 134 mothers about their relationships with 381 adult children during the first few months after the mothers began caring for a spouse or older parent. Building on a framework that draws on theories of social structural similarity, I anticipated that adult children who shared more social statuses with their parents would be more likely to be sources of emotional and instrumental support and less likely to be sources of interpersonal stress to their caregiving mothers. Multivariate analyses revealed no effects of structural similarity and few effects of other characteristics of adult children. In fact, the only factor found to be consistently related to children’s likelihood of being a source of support or stress was the number of hours mothers spent providing care. Consistent with expectations, adult children whose mothers spent more hours caregiving were more likely to provide both emotional and instrumental support. Contrary to expectations, adult children were also more likely to be a source of stress to mothers who spent long hours caregiving, apparently because adult children often resented the reduction in their mothers’ availability. These findings contribute to a growing literature demonstrating that one of the costs of status transitions is often change in relationships with network members who feel that the individuals’ role performance has been affected.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

J. Jill Suitor



Included in

Sociology Commons