Theories and their Empirical Support in the Study of Intergenerational Family Relationships in Adulthood

Authored by: Teresa M. Cooney , Pearl A. Dykstra

Handbook of Family Theories

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  March  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415879453
eBook ISBN: 9780203075180
Adobe ISBN: 9781135118754


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The shared lives of parents and offspring are longer today than ever before. It is not until their sixth decade of life that most adults in developed countries will occupy the “orphan” status, having experienced the death of their last remaining parent (Puur, Sakkeus, Põldma, & Herm, 2011; Soldo, 1996; Uhlenberg, 1996). Even after this transition occurs, most late middle-aged persons will still be part of a parent–adult child relationship—in this case as the older generation member (Matthews & Sun, 2006; Soldo, 1996). Given that much of one's life course is spent in at least one adult intergenerational relationship, the significance of these ties for everyday living and personal well-being cannot be over-stated. This chapter reviews conceptualization of and research on the central dimensions of adult child–parent relationships, their manifestation in contemporary family life, and theoretical explanations for the variability that is seen in them.

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