Dyadic and longitudinal approaches to parent-child relationships in later life : a contingent exchange perspective
Belliston, Lisa Marie
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Researchers have identified many factors influencing parent-adult child relationships. An extensive body of literature has characterized different indicators such as gender, health, race, and proximity of both parents and adult children that influence the types and amounts of support given and received by both generations, but not as much attention has been given to other aspects of the relationship such as what influences closeness within these relationships and normative beliefs members hold. Much of this literature is atheoretical. It is crucial to develop effective theories of aging that can help guide how we examine intergenerational relationships and exchange and help determine what aspects of exchange should be focused on. The lack of previous research being guided by strong theory addressed through a theoretical and empirical test of the Theory of Intergenerational Solidarity and the Contingent Exchange Perspective. Working from the Contingent Exchange Perspective, I examined the relationship between needs and resources of both generations as predictors of five dimensions of Intergenerational Solidarity: Functional, Structural, Associational, Affectual, and Normative. Longitudinal data from 3,320 adult children (MAge = 38 years, 58% women, 12% African American, 4% Hispanic) and cross-sectional data from their parents (MAge = 65 years, 65% women) were drawn from the National Survey of Families and Households to address the research questions. Additionally, instrumental and emotional exchange is examined using Intergenerational Solidarity and the Contingent Exchange Perspective. Results suggest that needs and resources of both generations are important for predicting each dimension of solidarity, and may serve as partial explanation for the shifting balance in intergenerational relationships across adulthood. There is also evidence for the importance of needs and resources in predicting flows of instrumental assistance up and down generations, whereas importance of dimensions of Intergenerational Solidarity (aside from Associational, necessary to provide instrumental aid) were largely absent. Predictors of emotional support were more complex: Affectual and Associational Solidarity were important, but parents and children often differ systematically in their reports of the same exchanges. Based on these findings, future research surrounding parent-adult child relationships and exchange must address needs and resources within the dyadic relationship.