Encyclopedia of Aging and Public Health

2008 Edition
| Editors: Sana JD Loue, Martha Sajatovic

Empty Nest Syndrome

  • Sara Harkness
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-33754-8_156

First introduced in 1914 by writer Dorothy Canfield, the concept of “empty nest syndrome” was clinically identified and popularized in the 1970s as a group of symptoms including depression, loneliness, and low self‐esteem, found among mothers whose last child had recently moved out of the family home. A great deal of sociological research since then has sought to find out how the “empty nest” relates to mothers’ (and to a lesser extent fathers') well‐being, and how other circumstances such as being employed outside the home may influence the experience.

The term “empty nest” evokes different images depending on whether one is a sociologist, psychologist, therapist, parent, or even a realtor or travel agent. For sociologists, the “empty nest” is a household composed of adults whose children have moved out, but who have not yet reached old age themselves. Several trends have contributed to the emergence of this household type in the United States in the last 50 years, including greater...

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Suggested Readings

  1. Adelman PA, Antonucci TC, Crohan SE, Coleman LM (1989) Empty nest, cohort, and employment in the well‐being of midlife women. Sex Roles 20(3–4):173–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Borland DC (1982) A cohort analysis approach to the empty‐nest syndrome among three ethnic groups of women: a theoretical position. J Marriage Fam February:117–129Google Scholar
  3. Doherty NA, Feeney JA (2004) The composition of attachment networks throughout the adult years. Personal Relationships 11:469–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Kerns V, Brown JK (eds) (1992) In her prime: new views of middle‐aged women. University of Illinois Press, Chicago, ILGoogle Scholar
  5. Putnam RD (2000) Bowling alone: the collapse and revival of American community. Simon & Schuster, New YorkGoogle Scholar
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  7. White L, Edwards JN (1990) Emptying the nest and parental well‐being: an analysis of national panel data. Am Sociol Rev 55:235–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara Harkness

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