Parent-Child Relations throughout Life

By Karl Pillemer; Kathleen McCartney | Go to book overview

11
Normative Obligations and Parent-Child Help Exchange Across the Life Course

Alice S. Rossi Peter H. Rossi University of Massachusetts

This chapter reports two lines of analysis from a larger study of the parentadult child relationship: first, the structure of normative obligations toward a range of specified kinpersons, which permits us to specify the respects in which obligations toward parents and children differ from the obligations felt toward less closely related kin; and second, an overview of the help exchanged between parents and adult children from the early adulthood of the children to the very elderly years of the parents ( Rossi & Rossi, 1990). We begin, however, with a discussion of the major issues posed in the study, and their translation into the research design we adopted to pursue them, so that these two more specific themes reported in later sections can be located in the framework of the larger study.


CONCEPTUAL ISSUES IN THE LARGER STUDY

Four major concerns were brought together in the study. The first and largest framework within which we explored the relationship between parents and adult children is the life course context. Hagestad ( 1984) has pointed out that research on the parent-child relationship has been focussed at the very earliest and very latest phases of the life course, with developmental psychologists concerned with the years of infancy through adolescence, and social gerontologists with the very elderly years of the parents when their children are middle-aged. Left relatively uncharted is the long stretch of time when the children are young adults and their parents are still vigorous and healthy middle-aged adults. Our expectation was that childhood dependence on parents is followed by several

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