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Intergenerational Transmission

Intergenerational Solidarity

The concept of family solidarity or cohesion, as proposed by Vern Bengtson and his colleagues (1985), has been the focus of much research into intergenerational transmission over the past two decades. Theoretically grounded in the life-course perspective, it focuses on six dimensions of solidarity: family structure; associational solidarity (the degree to which members of a lineage are in contact with one another and engage in shared behavior and common activities); affectual solidarity (the degree of positive sentiment expressed in the intergenerational relationship); consensual solidarity (the degree of consensus or conflict in beliefs or orientations external to the family); functional solidarity (the degree to which financial assistance and service exchanges occur among family members); and normative solidarity (the norms of familism held by family members, in terms of expectations of proximity and assistance.

A number of studies have attempted to address some of the shortcomings of the original solidarity model. Robert E. Roberts and Bengtson's (1990) examination of intergenerational family relationships includes a number of additional dimensions of family cohesion. In adding filial responsibility, dependency needs, experiences not shared across generations, residential propinquity, gender linkage of pair, and helping behavior, they acknowledge the complexity of parent-child relationships in later life. The results indicate that intergenerational solidarity in later life is not a unidimensional construct, and that each component is determined by different variables. Also, Leora Lawton and her colleagues (1994) use a gendered analysis to examine family solidarity in intergenerational pairs of family members. Their study finds that gender, marital status of parent, education, and race are key factors in cohesion between parents and children, and that the influence of a grandparent during childhood is "associated with more frequent contact, emotional closeness, and shared opinions in the child's adult years" (Lawton, Silverstein, and Bengston 1994, p. 42). Inasmuch as these studies attempt to explain later life patterns of intergenerational family solidarity, however, they are limited by their inattention to the historical, cultural, and social structural forces that shape family relationships and patterns of intergenerational transmission along solidarity dimensions.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelatives & Extended FamilyIntergenerational Transmission - Cultural Transmission: Values, Norms, And Beliefs, Social Support, Intergenerational Solidarity, Limitations