The Impact of Late-Life Parental Death on Adult Sibling Relationships

Do Parents' Advance Directives Help or Hurt?

Published in: Research on Aging, v. 31, no. 5, Sep. 2009, p. 495-519

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2008

by Dmitry Khodyakov, Deborah Carr

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The authors examined whether the effect of parental death on adults siblings' relationship quality varies on the basis of the presence and perceived effectiveness of a deceased parent's formal preparations for end-of-life care. The authors used data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study and focused on the relationship quality of a bereaved adult child and his or her randomly selected sibling. Parental death was associated with a decrease in sibling closeness. The parent's use of advance directives (living will and durable power of attorney for health care) did not have uniformly positive effects on adult siblings' relationship quality. Sibling relationships suffered when the living will was believed to cause problems, but relationships improved when the deceased parent named someone other than his or her spouse or a child as durable power of attorney for health care. The authors discuss the implications for developing effective end-of-life preparations that benefit both the decedent and surviving kin.

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