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Intergenerational Solidarity in Aging Families: An Example of Formal Theory Construction

Vern L. Bengtson and Robert E. L. Roberts
Journal of Marriage and Family
Vol. 53, No. 4 (Nov., 1991), pp. 856-870
DOI: 10.2307/352993
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/352993
Page Count: 15
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Intergenerational Solidarity in Aging Families: An Example of Formal Theory Construction
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Abstract

This article describes development of a theory of solidarity among parents and children during the adult family life course. Four stages in the theory's development are reported here. Presented first is a taxonomy of six dimensions of intergenerational family cohesion—association, affection, consensus, resource sharing, the strength of familism norms, and the opportunity structure for interaction—reflecting conceptual contributions from classical social theory, social psychology, and family sociology. An initial formal theoretical specification of interrelationships among a subset of the six elements is reviewed, as well as two independent tests of that model. Second, a revision of the theory informed by results of the two empirical tests is presented. Third, elements of the revised theory are translated into a structural equation model, which is tested with data collected from 363 pairs of elderly parents and middle-aged adult children. These data provided support for seven of nine propositions derived from the reformulated theory. The major finding concerns interrelationships among normative integration, affection, and association. Greater endorsements of familial primacy norms by parents and children were associated with higher ratings of intergenerational affection. Greater affection was, in turn, related to more frequent association when opportunity for interaction was controlled. The fourth stage in theory development reported here includes discussion of the new results and suggestions for future conceptual and empirical work.

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