December 4, 2008

‘Empty nest’ improves parents’ marriage

Many think parents confronted with an empty nest are sad and lonely, but a U.S. study suggests children leaving home may help their parents' marriage.

University of California, Berkeley psychologists Sara M. Gorchoff, Oliver P. John and Ravenna Helson tracked the marital satisfaction of a group of women over 18 years, from the time they were in their 40s to when they were in their early 60s.

The study, published in Psychological Science, revealed that marital satisfaction increased as the women got older -- marital satisfaction increased for women who stayed with the same partners and for women who remarried.

The most striking finding was that women who had made the transition to an empty nest increased more in marital satisfaction than women who still had children at home. Even more interesting, it was shown that an empty nest does not increase levels of marital satisfaction simply because the parents have more time to spend with each other, the researchers said.

The study suggests women whose children had left home enjoyed their time with their partners more compared with women whose children were still at home.