2380 intergenerational relationships and exchanges

observed challenges to parental control as
childrens individualistic aspirations began to
compete with family obligations. In the US,
parents relationships with children have since
shifted from an emphasis on obedience and
strict conformity to developing childrens auto
nomy and independence. In Japan, South Korea,
and other countries, the significance of filial
piety seems to be diminishing, raising new ques
tions about who should care for the old and
The study of intergenerational relationships
and exchange has been guided by two ques
tions. The first involves intergenerational
transmission: what do families transmit from
one generation to the next, how do processes
of intergenerational transmission occur, and
why? Sizable correlations have been found, for
example, between the social class position of
parents and that eventually held by children
(the intergenerational reproduction of inequal
ity), and between parents and childrens reli
gious and political values, occupations, family
behavior (e.g., propensity to divorce), health
related behavior (e.g., smoking), and other
statuses, values, and behaviors. The family
environment (as against genetic) component of
intergenerational inheritance has been variously
explained by patterns of parental investment in
children (economic theory), children modeling
their parents (learning theory), and levels of
affect in the parentchild relationship (attach
ment theory). Research is just beginning to
explore transmission across multiple genera
tions, as in the case of grandparental influence
on grandchildren, prompted in part by positive
trends in the health, longevity, and socioeco
nomic status of older generations.
The second question involves how interge
nerational relationships and exchange contribute
to (or detract from) the well being of individual
family members. Under what circumstances do
relationships and exchange provide members
psychological and material well being, a haven
in a heartless world, or leave them in the cold?
The concern most often has been with the well
being of societys two dependent populations,
elders and children, although the well being of
the sandwiched generation has also received
attention. A key feature is the study of caregiv
ing, and of the timing and spacing of transfers
up and down the intergenerational ladder

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relationships and

Timothy J. Biblarz, Vern L. Bengtson, and
Merril Silverstein

The study of intergenerational relationships
and exchange is about the structure and process
of sharing that occurs in the linked lives of
grandparents, parents, and children (and some
times extended kin) as they move along the life
course. Like the discipline of sociology, this
subfield emerged in the wake of rapid indus
trialization, urbanization, and expansion of the
states role in families (e.g., the education of
children and caring for the elderly), and is
concerned with how these major social changes
altered extended family ties, the role of grand
parents, and parentchild relationships. Mid
dletown researchers in the 1920s, for example,