COLUMBIA, 11/24/11 (Beat Byte) -- Parents be nice to your kiddos if you want them to care for you in old age. That's part of the message from new research by Lawrence Ganong, Ph.D. (left) a Mizzou professor and co-chair in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

Ganong and Mizzou Curators professor Marilyn Coleman, Ph.D. found that relationship quality trumps genetic ties when determining caregiver obligations. The findings are important, Ganong says, because divorce, remarriage, and non-marital relationships have introduced so many non-genetic relationships into today's family fabric.

"The idea that family obligations are based on genetic ties is not true for most Americans," Ganong said. "How close family members are to each other, how much they have been helped by them in the past, and what hardships care giving might place on family members are important factors when people consider caring for older kin."

Participants in Ganong's study answered questions about who should provide care to parents and stepparents. Most participants said that while biological factors are relevant, they do not create an automatic care-giving obligation to older relatives.

Ganong recommends adult children have honest conversations with parents and stepparents about expectations for care giving before needs arise.

The research was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

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