Life-Span Developmental Psychology: Intergenerational Relations

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

9
Intergenerational Networks
and Transmitting the Sense of
Coherence

Aaron Antonovsky

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev


THE SENSE OF COHERENCE

For many years, I studied the role of social and psychological factors in the etiology of diseases. My work started with multiple sclerosis and later moved to cancer and coronary disease. The independent variables of major concern to me were social class, poverty, and immigration, which led me into the field of life events and stress research.

A significant change occurred in the late 1960s when I realized that I was really interested in disease -- or, as I called it in a 1972 paper, breakdown ( Antonovsky, 1972) -- rather than any specific disease. "Why do people break down?" I began to ask. It does not matter in which particular disease category this breakdown is expressed. The mystery is defined as the disruption of homeostasis and my thinking, like that of all my colleagues, reflected the medical model dichotomy of healthy-diseased. It is amusing to think that had I worked in a different area of sociology (being a committed adherent of conflict theory), I would probably have sought to understand how social systems manage to hold together. But, evidently, assuming that the natural course of social systems is to break down is less anxiety provoking and more easily admitted than making the same assumption with regard to the human organism.

The focus on overall vulnerability, then, was not yet a paradigmatic shift of perspective. But I had begun to move toward a decline of interest in stressors and to move toward a focus on resistance resources. My studies of concentration camp survivors and poor people suggested that some (fewer than in comparison groups, but, nonetheless, some), had the wherewithal to

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