Previous literature has identified parental death as having a negative impact on the physical and mental health of the surviving adult child. In addition, research suggests that the marital satisfaction of a male or female adult child is negatively impacted after either a father or mother has died. The purpose of this research is to further study this topic by examining longitudinal dyadic data to determine how the death of a parent or death of an in-law impacts marital interaction when certain mediating variables are taken into account. Some of the mediating variables included quality of the parent-child relationship, caregiving, and gender. Data from 98 couples, with an average age of 47, from the USC Longitudinal Study of Generations, were examined using stepwise regression. During the 3 year interval between 1997 and 2000, 45 couples in the sample experienced the death of at least one of their parents. The main finding of the study was that marital satisfaction appears to remain fairly stable following the death of a parent. In other words, there were very few significant changes in positive or negative marital interactions for grieving sons and daughters. However, the few significant results indicated that sons who had a mother die experienced a significant decline in negative interaction with their wife. The death of a spouse's parent also did not impact perceived marital satisfaction in a significant way. Clinical implications are discussed, as well as recommendations for future research.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage and Family Therapy



Date Submitted


Document Type





parental death, marital satisfaction, marital life course, transitions