by Jacob Climo
Rutgers University Press, 1992
Paper: 978-0-8135-1797-1 | Cloth: 978-0-8135-1796-4 | eISBN: 978-0-8135-6677-1
Library of Congress Classification HQ755.86.C55 1992
Dewey Decimal Classification 306.874


Jacob Climo writes about the relationship between adult children and their parents, when they live at a distance from each other. In the United States today, twenty million adult children live too far from their parents for frequent face-to-face contacts. Despite geographical separation, most of these children and their parents maintain intense family feelings and make great efforts to keep in touch. Until now, gerontologists and social scientists have ignored distant parent-child relationships. Climo focuses attention on the special problems of distant relationships by looking at the efforts of forty university professors, men and women, to maintain bonds with their parents, to provide assistance, and to communicate through visits and phone calls.

The adult children he interviewed live at least 200 miles from their parents. In most ways they are similar to the millions of other professionals whose careers have led them to move away from their parents. We hear their voices, as they speak frankly about the advantages, pains, and challenges of separation.

Climo considers distant relationships to be different from other relationships and to be a growing social problem. Distant living complicates communications by shaping and restricting both phone calls and visits. His description of the typical phone call and typical seasonal visit, with their patterns and limitations, will sound familiar to many of us. In addition to affecting communications, distance affects memories of past parent-child relationships in ways that influence present relationships. Memories, which take on great weight, tend to determine current behavior. Most seriously, distance limits the kinds of assistance children can provide when their parents become ill, resulting in frustration, anger, guilt, and a sense of powerlessness.

Climo urges us to be more aware of distant living as a growing social problem. The percentage of children who move away from their parents will continue to increase. Once adult children acknowledge the challenges distance creates, they can learn to develop better communications and to deal with their feelings of ambivalence.