Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
This study explores adult childrens' views on their supportive activities and their obligations towards their aged parents. The central concerns of this thesis are to broaden our understanding of generational exchange and the family dynamics which influence the gendered division of obligations towards parents. This research makes a theoretical contribution to the state of knowledge on the nature of familial exchange in later life.
Findings have been based on data from an in depth qualitative sub-project of the Generational Relations and Succession Project (GRASP). The GRASP data were obtained from a randomly selected sample of 464 men and women who were over the age of 40 and living in Hamilton and Stoney Creek, Ontario. All respondents from the GRASP study, with at least one surviving parent living in Ontario, were eligible for the sub-project. Open-ended tape recorded interviews were conducted with 56 men and women who were primarily between the ages of 40 and 54. The interviews were from 1-1/2 to 3 hours in length, depending on the circumstances of their parents and the number of their siblings.
This study confirms previous research which has found that adult children and their parents exchange services, gifts, and affection. Respondents consider the exchange of affection to be the most important aspect of their relationships with their parents. Unlike most other studies, however, they report giving more assistance and support than they receive from their parents. Discrepancies in research findings may relate to differences in parents' and childrens' perceptions.
A few of the findings reported on in this thesis have received very little attention in previous research on middle generation filial responsibilities. People whose parents lived with them or a sibling were more able to envision institutionalization as a potential option than people whose parents were healthier and living independently. Doctors, by virtue of their knowledge on health matters, sometimes help to legitimize the placement of parents in institutions. Most of these men and women find it difficult to plan or anticipate their futures with regards to their parents' old age.
Researchers in the field of gerontology have rarely examined the influence of family dynamics on generational relationships. Family dynamics and family structure have an important impact on peoples' sense of obligations towards their parents. Responsibilities towards parents cannot be entirely separated from obligations towards siblings. The extent of middle-aged peoples' obligations to their parents seems to be related to their geographical proximity to parents, to the number of adult children in the family, to the gender composition of the siblings in the family, and to the existence of parental favouritism in families where there are both sons and daughters. Obligations towards parents are also influenced by cultural notions on the appropriate gendered division of labour within the family. Women's time and work is not as highly valued as mens' time and work. Women's greater familial obligations seem to be at least partly influenced by the power positions of their brothers.
Gulewitsch, Debbera, "The Ties that Bind: A Qualitative Study of the Middle Generations' Support for Aged Parents" (1988). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5851.
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