Academic journal article Family Relations

Expressions of Generativity through Family Leisure: Experiences of Grandparents and Adult Grandchildren

Academic journal article Family Relations

Expressions of Generativity through Family Leisure: Experiences of Grandparents and Adult Grandchildren

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to understand the expression of generativity among grandparents and their adult grandchildren through their experiences of family leisure. Fourteen dyads of grandparents and adult grandchildren were interviewed about their experience of family leisure. The findings illustrate the important role that family leisure played in the experience and expression of generativity, evidenced by the reciprocal use of leisure in teaching, mentoring, and creating a family legacy among grandparents and adult grandchildren.

Key Words: family leisure, generativity, grandchildren, grandparents, intergenerational relations.

Despite North America's aging population and the increasing acknowledgment of the important role that older adults play in the family system, literature focusing on the inclusion of older adults in the study of family leisure remains sparse. Similarly, studies of family relations among grandparents and adult grandchildren are limited but steadily growing. Family leisure, conceptualized as the experience of time spent together by grandparents and grandchildren in free time or recreational activities, is an important component of the grandparentgrandchild relationship and may have both positive and negative implications for family relations. Mancini and Sandifer (1995) noted that the "nexus of the family and leisure realms for aging people is neither clearly conceptualized nor adequately explored" (p. 132). The purpose of this study was to integrate generativity - a key developmental milestone, according to Erikson (1963) - and family leisure in order to explore the role that family leisure can play in facilitating the development and expression of generativity among grandparents and their adult grandchildren.

Generativity, as described by Erikson (1963), refers to a psychological construct that reflects the midlife concern for, and care of, future generations as a legacy of the self. This is most obviously reflected in the act of parenting, but may also be manifested in other pursuits such as teaching, mentoring, religious involvement, and civic or political engagement (McAdams & Logan, 2004). Although generativity is frequently treated as a midlife construct, McAdams (2001) pointed out that we know little about the developmental origins of generativity. Recent research has shown that generativity has been exhibited across the life span, including adolescence (Frensch, Pratt, & Norris, 2007; Lawford, Pratt, Hunsberger, & Pancer, 2005) as well as older adulthood (Kleiber & Nimrod, 2008). Generativity has been shown to be positively associated with successful aging (Peterson & Duncan, 2007), as well as psychological well-being (Rothrauff & Cooney, 2008) and life satisfaction (Ackerman, Zuroff, & Moscowitz, 2000).

Similar benefits exist in association with family leisure. Family leisure has been defined as "time that parents and children spend together in free time or recreational activities" (Shaw, 1997, p. 98). On the basis of the various conceptualizations of family leisure, societal norms related to family leisure have espoused a variety of benefits, one of the most common being the old adage, "The family that plays together stays together." The bulk of family-related leisure research has, in fact, focused on these benefits, including improved communication among family members, higher quality of family relationships, and enhanced family cohesiveness and strength (Freeman & Zabriskie, 2002; Orthner & Mancini, 1990; Palmer, Freeman, & Zabriskie, 2007). Leisure, in fact, may provide an important avenue for the expression of generativity. For example, civic engagement through volunteering among retired older adults has been associated with benefits related to generativity, including the sense of self-worth gained through contributing to the community as a legacy that would outlast the self (Kleiber & Nimrod, 2008). Apart from the use of specific types of individual leisure activities such as civic engagement, volunteering, and involvement in religious/spiritual activities to study adults' midlife expressions of generativity, there has been no research that has explicitly examined conceptual linkages between generativity and family leisure. …

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