Cosmic transcendence, loneliness, and exchange of emotional support with adult children: a study among older parents in The Netherlands.

ABSTRACT. Gerotranscendence defines a shift in meta-perspective from earlier materialistic and pragmatic concerns, toward more cosmic and transcendent ones in later life. Population-based studies that have empirically examined this concept using Tornstam’s gerotranscendence scale, highlight cosmic transcendence as a core component, which includes a sense of belongingness with past and future generations. Such generative concerns may increase expectations regarding the quality of the bond with one’s children in later life. This study examined whether the association between emotional support exchanged with children and feelings of loneliness later in life varied by the degree of cosmic transcendence of the older parent. Data from 1,845 older parents participating in a population-based study living in The Netherlands were analyzed from the 1995/1996 cycle of the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. Interviews included self-report measures of cosmic transcendence, loneliness, emotional support exchanged with children, health indicators, and marital status. Results indicated that a negative association between loneliness and level of emotional support exchanged with children was more pronounced among older parents with higher cosmic transcendence scores, in particular among the married. It is argued that cosmic transcendence reflects a sense of generativity and an increased emotional dependency on children in later life. Under favorable social conditions (supportive relationships with children and being married) cosmic transcendent views had a positive impact on social well-being in later life. When children no longer met emotional needs of older parents, cosmic transcendence increased feelings of loneliness.