Solidarity, Conflict, and Ambivalence: Complementary or Competing Perspectives on Intergenerational Relationships?

By Bengtson, Vern; Giarrusso, Roseann et al. | Journal of Marriage and Family, August 2002 | Go to article overview

Solidarity, Conflict, and Ambivalence: Complementary or Competing Perspectives on Intergenerational Relationships?


Bengtson, Vern, Giarrusso, Roseann, Mabry, J. Beth, Silverstein, Merril, Journal of Marriage and Family


Key Words: affect, ambivalence, conflict, intergenerational relations, solidarity, theory.

Ambivalence is an apt term to describe the contradictions we experience in our intimate social relationships. We can feel it: the paradox between closeness and distance, the push and pull between intimacy and setting boundaries. Ambivalence is a phenomenological reality, a universal human experience, a reflection of the dilemmas we face in close relationships.

That ambivalent feelings characterize family interactions will be no surprise to family therapists and psychotherapists because much of their practice involves helping people disentangle difficulties in close-but-distant intimate relationships. Nor should the notion of ambivalence be a surprise to family researchers because they examine often conflicting data concerning the antecedents and consequences of family processes on some outcome. But does the concept of intergenerational ambivalence, proposed initially by Luscher and Pillemer (1998) and now expanded by Connidis and McMullin, provide something significantly new-- a more useful way to conceptualize and theorize family relationships than previous conceptualizations have achieved? If so, how should the concept of ambivalence be refined and operationalized in order to provide a better understanding of family relationships? How does it relate to other, more established, concepts such as what has become known as the intergenerational solidarity paradigm (Lowenstein, Katz, Prilutzky, & Hassoen, 2001)?

These are some of the questions raised by Connidis and McMullin in their examination of "Sociological ambivalence and family ties." These are theoretical issues important to examine. We congratulate Journal of Marriage and Family in highlighting this theoretical discussion for public debate. We congratulate Connidis and McMullin for their efforts to address the ambiguities of the intergenerational ambivalence concept and to strengthen its utility. Such explication moves the debate forward and will advance the building of theory in family research.

CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE AMBIVALENCE CONCEPT

What is ambivalence in intergenerational relationships? Luscher and Pillemer (1998) delineate two types: (a) sociological or structural ambivalence, which stems from an individual's location in the social structure, and (b) psychological or individual ambivalence, which refers to the feelings or sentiments experienced by individuals when faced with structural ambivalence. Their general definition of ambivalence, ". . . contradictions in relationships between parents and adult offspring that cannot be reconciled" (LOscher & Pillemer, p. 416), incorporates both types.

Connidis and McMullin applaud Lischer and Pillemer for going beyond previous conceptualizations of intergenerational relations that have been typified as wholly harmonious or wholly conflictual. However, they suggest that Luscher and Pillemer do not go far enough. Drawing on themes from critical theory (a rubric incorporating themes from Marxism, feminism, and the Frankfurt school), Connidis and McMullin argue that ambivalence must be reconceptualized as "socially structured contradictions made manifest in interaction" (p. 565). They assert that their concept of structured ambivalence is distinct from Uscher and Pillemer's structural or sociological ambivalence. The Connidis and McMullin reconceptualization of ambivalence as socially structured emphasizes that: (a) ambivalence is a feature of structured sets of social relationships within which certain groups are privileged, (b) individuals exercise agency (to the extent possible) when dealing with ambivalence, (c) the negotiation of ambivalence takes place through social interaction, and (d) conflict is an inevitable feature of interpersonal relationships, including intergenerational relationships.

Connidis and McMullin's construct of structured ambivalence adds to our understanding of family relationships. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Solidarity, Conflict, and Ambivalence: Complementary or Competing Perspectives on Intergenerational Relationships?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.