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Kinship and Cohort in an Aging Society

From Generation to Generation

edited by Merril Silverstein and Roseann Giarrusso

Publication Year: 2013

Kinship and Cohort in an Aging Society brings together scholars whose common link is their intellectual intersection with the work of Vern Bengtson, an esteemed family sociologist whose accomplishments include foundational theoretical contributions to the study of families and intergenerational relations as well as the development of the widely used Longitudinal Study of Generations data set. The study began in 1971 and is the basis for Bengtson’s highly influential concept and measurement model, the intergenerational solidarity-conflict paradigm. This book serves as an excellent compendium of original research that examines how Bengtson’s solidarity model, a theory that informs nearly all intergenerational and gerontology sociology work performed today, continues to be relevant to scholars and practitioners. Written by internationally recognized scholars, the book’s fifteen chapters are mapped to five major thematic areas to which Bengtson’s research contributed: family connections; grandparents in a changing demographic landscape; generations and cohorts (micro-macro dialectics); religion and families in the context of continuity, change, and conflict; and global cross-national and cross-ethnic concerns. Some key strengths of the book are the diversity of foci and data sources and the strong attention given to global and international issues. Kinship and Cohort in an Aging Society will appeal to scholars working in sociology, psychology, gerontology, family studies, and social work.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-xii

In 1970 I had just completed my first year of graduate school and won a scholarship to the University of Southern California’s Summer Institute of Gerontology. It was a fine time, with many new experiences for me. One I remember most clearly was meeting a new assistant professor who had just joined the faculty, Dr. Vern Bengtson. ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

The editors are grateful to Retirement Living Television, the University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology and College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, and the John Templeton Foundation for their financial support of the conference from which most of the chapters in this volume were derived. ...

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Introduction. Solidarity as a Key Concept in Family and Generational Research

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pp. 1-8

The first line of Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel Anna Karenina reads “all happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” (Tolstoy, 2004). Whether taken wryly or at face value, this dual view of family life rings true but is knowingly simplistic; almost all families manifest both positive and negative sentiments ...

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Part I. Family Connections: Solidarity within and Across Generations

The solidarity-conflict theoretical perspective includes seven dimensions along which intergenerational relationships may differ including affectual solidarity (emotional closeness), consensual solidarity (attitude similarity), functional solidarity (the exchange of instrumental and emotional help and support), ...

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1. Differences in Mothers’ and Fathers’ Parental Favoritism in Later Life: A Within-Family Approach

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pp. 11-30

In this chapter, we report on work that incorporates several dimensions of complexity in intergenerational relations. First, instead of comparing a single parent-child relationship between families, the research described here investigates how parents’ relationships with individual children within the same family differ. ...

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2. Intergenerational Solidarity in Blended Families: The Inequality of Financial Transfers to Adult Children and Stepchildren

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pp. 31-58

The dramatic increase of blended families over the past four decades has introduced new contexts for studying the dynamics of parent-child relationships in aging families. The growing diversity of family arrangements includes those who are related by marriage, birth, or adoption and those who join existing families voluntarily through remarriage ...

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3. Generational Contact and Support among Late Adult Siblings within a Verticalized Family

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pp. 59-76

Since discussion of the isolated nuclear family and the modified extended family began in the 1960s, most empirical intergenerational family studies have focused on the structural and functional changes in the parent-child relationship. The verticalization of the family structure added an extra push to this direction in the discipline. ...

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Part II. Grandparents in a Changing Demographic Landscape: Mothers and Mentors

Recent demographic changes in longevity, fertility, and family formation have influenced the status and role of grandparents. In 1900 only about 50% of young adults had a living grandparent compared to about 90% in 2000. In addition to a decline in fertility over this same time, patterns of fertility, marriage, and cohabitation have grown increasingly complex. ...

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4. Grandmothers’ Differential Involvement with Grandchildren in Rural Multiple Partner Fertility Family Structures

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pp. 79-103

Multiple partner fertility (herein referred to as MPF) involves men and women having biological children with more than one partner, frequently in the context of nonmarital romantic relationships (Carlson & Furstenberg, 2006). This fertility pattern creates diverse, complex, and transient multigenerational kinship networks ...

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5. The Role of Grandparents in the Transition to Adulthood: Grandparents as “Very Important” Adults in the Lives of Adolescents

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pp. 104-130

Demographic shifts over the past century have increased the percentage of grandchildren who have living grandparents, and these historical changes are especially impressive for young adults. For example, in 1900 about half of all 20-year-olds had at least one living grandparent; in 2000, 90% did. ...

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Part III. Of Generations and Cohorts: Micro-Macro Dialectics

One of the most vexing methodological problems in the study of aging and the life course is trying to tease apart age, period, and cohort effects. An age effect is change that occurs as a result of advancing age; a period effect is the impact of a historical event on an entire society; and a cohort effect is social change that occurs as one cohort replaces another. ...

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6. Who’s Talking about My Generation?

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pp. 133-158

Following one of the key themes of Vern Bengtson’s long scholarly career, this chapter considers the theoretical concept of “generation” as it has been used in the social and behavioral sciences (see Bengtson, 1989). A lot has been written using the concept(s) of generations, and nearly everyone agrees that it is, or they are, critical for linking the individual and society. ...

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7. Toward Generational Intelligence: Linking Cohorts, Families, and Experience

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pp. 159-175

Rarely have societies witnessed a “silent revolution” of such significance as population aging. Longer life spans and fewer births are transforming the age structure of societies from a triangle, with a few older adults at the top and an ever-larger number of younger people fanning out below them, into a rectangle with, ...

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8. Biography and Generation: Spirituality and Biographical Pain at the End of Life in Old Age

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pp. 176-190

Families, generations, and relationships have been at the center of the study of aging as long as it has been as a recognized area of scientific study. Social scientists from a variety of disciplines have long been preoccupied with the connectedness of human beings from the primary social units called families through to those called communities and those called nation-states. ...

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Part IV. Religion and Families: Contexts of Continuity, Change, and Conflict

Engaging the family solidarity paradigm, the authors in this section examine the role of religion in family and institutional settings and the intergenerational and social network processes embedded within these contexts. The two empirical studies in this section also reveal how religion often serves as the framework for understanding ...

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9. How Theory-Building Prompts Explanations about Generational Connections in the Domains of Religion, Spirituality, and Aging

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pp. 193-208

Few gerontologists have pursued theory-building with as much enthusiasm and insight as Vern Bengtson. Several generations of colleagues and students share his appreciation of the importance of taking theory-building seriously in advancing science. Researchers in aging understand the value of theories in identifying interesting questions and in setting boundaries. ...

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10. The Transmission of Religion across Generations: How Ethnicity Matters

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pp. 209-236

How does racial, ethnic, or cultural heritage relate to the continuity of a religious tradition in multigenerational families? Have religious transmission patterns changed over time and between generations in ethnic families, particularly between today’s youth and their elders? ...

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11. Church-Based Negative Interactions among Older African Americans, Caribbean Blacks, and Non-Hispanic Whites

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pp. 237-262

There is a long history of research and scholarship on the importance of family and religion in the lives of African Americans (Billingsley, 1992, 1999; Hill, 1999; Taylor, Chatters, & Levin, 2004; Taylor, Jackson, & Chatters, 1997), and an emerging literature has begun to investigate the intersection of religion and family (Chatters & Taylor, 2006). ...

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Part V. Global, Cross-National, and Cross-Ethnic Issues: Who Will Care for the Young and the Old?

Although there are disparities among countries in population aging, with some developing countries still considered young and some developed countries deemed to be old, these differences will not last long, as the speed of demographic change is increasing. ...

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12. Global Aging and Families: Some Policy Concerns about the Global Aging Perspective

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pp. 265-283

The concept of global aging has recently become widely used in social gerontology. This chapter reviews the concept of globalization, critically addresses the political undertones of the general policy discourse about globalization and aging, suggests some major consequences of global aging for families, ...

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13. Social Change, Social Structure, and the Cycle of Induced Solidarity

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pp. 284-292

Recently, the cover of the New York Times Sunday magazine featured a Filipino woman with the caption, “200 million migrants worldwide sent home $300 billion last year.” The article, entitled “A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves,” describes how families are simultaneously sustained economically and strained socially and emotionally ...

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14. The Intergenerational Social Contract Revisited: Cross-National Perspectives

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pp. 293-313

Population aging is a global phenomenon. In what Bengtson and colleagues (2003) call a “population explosion” and what Myers (2007) calls a “third demographic transition,” older people the world over are growing more numerous and living longer. With strong expectations of early retirement in developed nations ...

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15. Aging, Health, and Families in the Hispanic Population: Evolution of a Paradigm

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pp. 314-332

The “multiple hierarchy stratification” perspective emerged as a distinct paradigm in the 1970s that viewed ethnic minority status as a source of inequality on par with other sources of inequality based on social class, gender, and age (Bengtson, 1979). Specifically, ethnic minority status was thought to converge with low social class, female gender, ...

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Short Biography of Vern L. Bengtson

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pp. 333-334

Vern L. Bengtson earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago under the guidance of Bernice Neugarten and Robert Havighurst in the Committee for Human Development. Bengtson’s first and only academic post was at the University of Southern California in the Davis School of Gerontology and the Department of Sociology. ...

List of Contributors

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pp. 335-336


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pp. 337-350

E-ISBN-13: 9781421408941
E-ISBN-10: 1421408945
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421408934
Print-ISBN-10: 1421408937

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 23 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Families.
  • Families -- Cross-cultural studies.
  • Intergenerational relations.
  • Intergenerational relations -- Cross-cultural studies.
  • Older people -- Family relationships.
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