Life-Span Developmental Psychology: Intergenerational Relations

By Nancy Datan; Anita L. Greene et al. | Go to book overview

Preface

This volume contains the papers presented at the ninth biennial West Virginia University conference on life-span development. The conference was held in Morgantown on May 10-12, 1984, and the topic was designated as "Intergenerational Networks: Families in Context".

One of the themes discernible in the present volume is illustrated fictionally in Samuel Butler ( 1902) novel, The Way of All Flesh. In this novel, the character Theobold Pontifex had been raised by a harsh father but believed he would be more lenient toward his own son than his father had been toward him. However, he also believed, as had his father, that he must be on guard against being too indulgent, "for no duty could be more important than that of teaching a child to obey its parents in all things" (p. 87). Theobold was unable to break the mold imposed on him by his father. In one incident in the novel, Theobold thrashed his son, Ernest, for deliberately -- as Theobold thought -- mispronouncing "come" as "tum."

The theme of intergenerational similarity in Butler's novel is confirmed by evidence contained in the chapters herein by Dunham and Bengtson and by Honzik. The six-generation family mentioned by Dunham and Bengtson is a striking example. (A point that is perhaps historically noteworthy but is not otherwise relevant here is that Butler believed intergenerational similarity has an hereditary basis -- the inheritance of acquired characteristics as proposed by Charles Darwin's grandfather Erasmus Darwin and, later, by Lamarck.)

Another theme in the conference is exemplified by a tribe of African pygmies, The Mbuti ( Turnbull, 1978). Among the Mbuti, the transitions from childhood to youth and from youth to adulthood are ekimi (quiet). However, adulthood is not ekimi. It is a prolonged transition to elderhood and as such

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