Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 69–79 | Cite as

How Do Parents React When Their Children Leave Home? An Integrative Review

  • Geneviève BouchardEmail author


The empty nest, which refers to the phase of the family life cycle following the departure of children, has been associated with both positive and negative consequences for parents. This article aims to achieve a better understanding of the complex effects of this transition. It discusses available data and theoretical perspectives on the empty nest, from pioneering works until the most recent studies on the subject. It includes a discussion of conceptualization and methodological issues, as well as a review of determinants of nest leaving. The influence of the departure of children on their parents’ marital quality and psychological well-being, including the potential development of empty-nest syndrome, are then summarized. Studies examining other parental outcome, such as marital instability or relationships with adult children, are also reviewed. It ends with a discussion on boomerang kids and directions for future research. In particular, the need to study the empty-nest period with parents living in a variety of marital situations is acknowledged.


Empty nest Departure of children Family life cycle Marital relationships Well-being 


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversité de MonctonMonctonCanada

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