Elder Abuse: Conflict in the Family

Elder Abuse: Conflict in the Family

Elder Abuse: Conflict in the Family

Elder Abuse: Conflict in the Family


This volume presents important findings on conflict and abuse in families of the aged. A valuable resource for those in sociology, psychology, gerontology, and social work as well as psychotherapists who work with the aged, the staff of elder abuse programs, adult protective service workers, and legislators. "the authors provide a fresh, historically balanced, empirical and theoretical framework for the view that elder abuse and neglect is an extreme manifestation of family conflict." Lisa P. Gwyther, Journal of Gernontology


Family members providing physical and psychological care or help to each other is fundamental to maintaining the family as a unit throughout the life cycle. This interaction is also one of the sources of emotional satisfaction for family members. During much of the adult life cycle, there is a mutual exchange of help between adult children and their elderly parents. In later life, however, the balance of exchange can shift when the dependency needs of older parents increase. Once the elderly parents require a great deal of help, the helping relationship often becomes a source of conflict, negative or hostile feelings, and considerable burden or strain on the part of the adult child caregiver. In some cases, the helping relationship can deteriorate into its opposite: abuse and/or neglect of the elderly.

This chapter attempts to show how the dynamics of the helping relationship can help to explain neglect of the elderly by their adult child caregivers. By understanding the factors that lead to neglect, we may be able to prevent such neglect or more easily remedy it when it occurs.

What Constitutes Neglect?

We are going to focus on neglect rather than on other forms of abuse. Before discussing reasons for this focus, we need to specify what is meant by "neglect." Family abuse is a recent area of study . . .

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