The prospect of the last child leaving home for university can be a daunting prospect for a father, who may wonder "what happens next?"
However, new research suggests that parents coping with empty nests generally view the change as positive, rather than as a serious challenge to their parenting skills.
A study at the University of Missouri, based on interviews with 142 sets of parents, found that both mothers and fathers whose kids had left for college noticed changes regarding the independence of their children, the closeness of their relationship and the amount of time spent together.
On the whole, parents said that since their kids left the house, they were able to relate to them more as peers than from the point of view of authority figures.
At the same time, other respondents said they had begun acting as mentors for their children, doling out advice rather than orders.
"As children age, direct caretaking and influence diminish, and children are often seen by their parents as peers with whom they have continuing relationships," commented Christine Proulx, assistant professor of human development and family studies at the university.
Some 18.3 million students will attend colleges across the U.S. this fall, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.