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Family practices in later life

Family practices in later life

Pat Chambers
Graham Allan
Chris Phillipson
Mo Ray
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  • Book Info
    Family practices in later life
    Book Description:

    There is no shortage of political and moral commentary on family life. Frequently the underlying theme of these commentaries is the decline of contemporary family commitment, particularly when older people's family experiences are the focus. Family Practices in Later Life challenges many common stereotypes about the nature of family involvement as people age. The book explores diversity and change in the family relationships older people maintain, looking at how family relationships are constructed and organised in later life. It recognises that the emerging patterns are a consequence of the choices and decisions negotiated within family networks, emphasising older people's agency in the construction of their family practices. In exploring such themes as long-term marriage, sibling ties in later life and grandparenthood, the book highlights the continued significance of family connection and solidarity in later life, while recognizing that family relationships are inevitably modified over time as people's social and material circumstances alter. Family Practices in Later Life will be of interest to students, researchers and academics in the fields of social policy, family studies and social gerontology. It provides a valuable contribution to the developing field of critical social gerontology as well as to an understanding of family process.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-733-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword
    (pp. vi-vi)
    Judith Phillips

    The study of ageing is continuing to increase rapidly across multiple disciplines. Consequently students, academics, professionals and policy makers need texts on the latest research, theory, policy and practice developments in the field. With new areas of interest in mid- and later life opening up, the series bridges the gaps in the literature as well as providing cutting-edge debate on new and traditional areas of ageing within a lifecourse perspective. Taking this approach, the series addresses ‘ageing’ (rather than gerontology or ‘old age’) providing coverage of mid- as well as later life; it promotes a critical perspective and focuses on...

  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Pat Chambers, Graham Allan, Chris Phillipson and Mo Ray
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xii)

    There is considerable public and political interest, particularly in the Western world, in older people and their families. Indeed, in line with what Means (2007) refers to as the ‘re-medicalisation’ of old age at the beginning of the 21st century, a substantial body of literature has debated the role, responsibility and social policy mandate of the family in caring for an ageing population. Increasingly, what has been portrayed in these debates is what might usefully be described as a ‘welfare model’ of older families, in which family relationships in later life are reduced to: ‘who cares for whom and in...

  4. ONE Family practices and family relationships
    (pp. 1-14)

    There have been many changes in the patterning of family relationships over the last 40 years. While mid-20th-century family organisation was less uniform than the Parsonian emphasis on a conjugal/nuclear family system indicated (Parsons, 1959), the level of diversity now found, and accepted as normal, in people’s experiences of family relationships is far greater than it was. In particular, since the 1970s, patterns of family and household formation and dissolution have altered quite dramatically and in ways that were certainly not predicted then. As is now widely recognised, the very idea of a stable, highly structured family cycle is no...

  5. TWO Families in later life
    (pp. 15-26)

    Understanding family practices in later life raises a number of difficulties for research and the development of social policy. Three main problems can be identified from a survey of the literature provided by historians, sociologists and those working in the field of social policy. First, generalisations are often made about ‘the family’ in previous centuries or in ‘modern times’. These often ignore substantial class, gender and ethnic differences – strikingly apparent in the 21st century but no less real at earlier periods of historical time (Pelling and Smith, 1991; Haber and Gratton, 1994). Second, certain types of data are problematic...

  6. THREE Older parents and their adult children
    (pp. 27-38)

    There has been a tendency in the UK, North America and indeed Western Europe for politicians, policy makers, researchers and, equally important, the public to view the relationship between ageing parents and their adult children¹ in a very narrow way as one that is dominated by care-giving and/or care receiving. Whilst recognising the vital importance of the welfare role undertaken within families, Matthews (2002: 211) warns that one consequence of the ‘… myopia of focusing entirely on family caregivers’ has been to produce a gloomy picture of older families. More recently in the UK, a popular Saturday newspaper published a...

  7. FOUR Long-lasting relationships
    (pp. 39-50)

    Long-lasting heterosexual marriage is only one manifestation of a diverse range of intimate relationships now occurring in later life. As discussed more fully in Chapter One, the relationships that ageing adults construct are increasingly likely to reflect more fluid forms of attachment that challenge traditional notions of family life. As Huyck (2001) specifies, these include remarriage, cohabitation, living apart together, affairs and absent relationships. Moreover, divorce is increasingly common among those people married for two, three or more decades, a trend that is set to continue (Arber et al, 2003). Consequently, a higher proportion of older adults are likely to...

  8. FIVE Brothers and sisters
    (pp. 51-62)

    This chapter explores the way in which brothers and sisters grow up and grow old, together and apart. Specifically, it will address the way in which older siblings negotiate continuities, and manage the discontinuities brought about by ageing. The study of siblings in later life is a neglected area, particularly in the UK. A preoccupation with relationships of care and increasing interest in intergenerational support, solidarity and ambivalence has shifted the gerontological gaze from intra-generational ties. And yet, Bengtson’s (2001: 6) notion of co-survivorship among generations (see also Chapters One and Three) could equally be applied to intra-generational relationships. Many...

  9. SIX Grandparenting
    (pp. 63-74)

    Over the last 20 years grandparental relationships have received a good deal of attention from social scientists, especially in North America (eg Cherlin and Furstenberg, 1992; Szinovacz, 1998; Rosenthal and Gladstone, 2000; Attias-Donfut and Segalen, 2002; Crosnoe and Elder, 2002; Gauthier, 2002). One factor that generated interest in these ties was a growing awareness of the surprisingly high amount of full-time and part-time care that some grandmothers (and to a lesser extent grandfathers) were routinely involved in, especially in instances where parental care was problematic or lacking, for whatever reason (Minkler, 1999; Goodman and Silverstein, 2001). Overall, in the context...

  10. SEVEN Later life widow(er)hood
    (pp. 75-86)

    This chapter argues for a lifecourse approach to understanding family practices in later life in relation to later life widow(er)hood. A lifecourse perspective takes the view that continuing and accumulative experiences over the lifecourse influence the experience of family relationships and practices in later life (Hockey and James, 2003). Gender is fundamental to this discussion of the way in which older widows and widowers ‘do’ family (Davidson, 2001); indeed, as argued by Morgan (1996: 11), family practices and gendered practices are likely to overlap. This chapter will argue that cohort, linked to gender, is an equally important component in understanding...

  11. EIGHT Globalisation and transnational communities: implications for family life in old age
    (pp. 87-98)

    This chapter considers some of the challenges raised by the development of globalisation for understanding changes to family life. Debates around the theme of globalisation became influential in the social sciences during the 1990s, notably in sociology and political science (Held et al, 1999). Subsequently, this work was to broaden out with extensive discussions both in social policy (George and Wilding, 2002) and social gerontology (Estes and Phillipson, 2002; Baars et al, 2006). Globalisation has now become an influential force in the construction of old age, notably so in the framing of social and economic policies designed to manage and...

  12. NINE Changing times: older people and family ties
    (pp. 99-106)

    The concerns of this book have focused on the character of family solidarities in later life at the beginning of the 21st century. For many years, there have been arguments that ‘the family’ is, in some global yet ill-defined way, no longer as supportive or as caring as it once was, especially with respect to later life relationships. This is part of a much wider discourse that perceives contemporary social formations as fostering greater individualisation at the expense of family and community commitment. According to those who subscribe to such a perspective, family ties have become attenuated, with people no...