The Impacts of Late-Life Parental Death on Sibling Relationships: Do Advance Directives Help or Hurt?

Dmitry Khodyakov, Rutgers University
Deborah Carr, Rutgers University

We examine the extent to which the death of elderly parents affects the quality of the relationship between their surviving adult children, and whether the effects of parental death vary based on the presence and perceived effectiveness of the deceased parent’s end-of-life planning. We analyze data from the two most recent waves of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (1993, 2004), a long-term study of men and women who graduated Wisconsin high schools in 1957 and who are now in their mid 60s (N=4,297). We find that parental death decreases closeness between their children. The parent’s use of living wills does not have uniformly positive effects on sibling relations: the sibling relationship suffers when the living will was believed to “cause problems”. This effect persists when pre-loss sibling relations are controlled, which suggests that end-of-life planning should be tailored to the specific needs and preferences of both the dying and their families.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Poster Session 7