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Empty nest refers to the home environment once children have matured and left to make their way in the world, but also includes the concept of them returning Empty nest syndrome is a general feeling of depression and loneliness that parents/other guardian relatives feel when one or more of their children leave home. While more common in women, it can happen to both sexes. The marriage of a child can lead to similar feelings, with the role and influence of the parents often becoming less important compared to the new spouse.
A strong maternal or paternal bond between the parent and child can make the condition worse. The role of the parent while the child is still living with them is more hands-on and immediate than is possible when they have moved out, particularly if the distance means that visits are difficult.
Social and cultural factors
Empty nest syndrome has become more prevalent in modern times, as the extended family is becoming less common than in past generations, and the elderly are left living by themselves.
In many cultures, such as those in Africa, India, Middle Eastern and East Asia, one's elderly parents were held in very high esteem and it was considered almost a duty to care for and respect them. In contrast to most Western societies, extended families were common in those places. However, nowadays, even in these countries, as cities become more Westernized and industrialized, values are gradually changing. It is sometimes rather inconvenient or impractical to live with or care extensively for one's parents in a modern setting. This is also true if these relatives were abusive or otherwise repressive. Empty Nest Syndrome is starting to surface in some of those nations as well, where traditional values come in conflict with Westernization. This has been especially the case for Hong Kong. .
Myth or reality?
Some scholars dispute empty nest syndrome, claiming it is a myth. They claim that many parents are happy when their children move out of the home, and may feel a sense of accomplishment when they graduate into college. Their marriages may improve and they are able to spend more time with each other.
It is usual for time to be freed up when a child moves out, especially if there are no siblings left in the house. It is usually advised that the parent or parents should find new activities and distractions to take up some of this time. However, some depressions can become very severe and the person should seek professional help.
- Webber, Christine and Delvin, David – "Empty-nest syndrome", referenced 22 February 2005
- Article at Psychology Today
- Tips to Help at ParentingTeens.about.com
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