Rethinking theoretical and methodological issues in intergenerational family relations research

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This paper introduces some key theoretical and methodological developments in the study of intergenerational family relations. It draws on observations that a number of social issues are emerging that have an intergenerational dimension, that there is growing recognition that to study adult ageing one has also to study intergenerational relationships, and that a new architecture for social relations is beginning to take shape in the wake of demographic change. How individuals, families and societies cope with such changes provokes the question of how gerontologically-informed research, theorisation and policy will also adapt. Seven positions are summarised which attempt two things. First, to map out some new conceptual directions for intergenerational research through a critical use of concepts such as transition, generational self-awareness and empathy, metaphors of cultural translation, and the deployment of social and moral capital. Second, to examine changing gender roles, the balance between family and welfare-state support frameworks, ethnicity and immigration as important elements of this process. A critical review of approaches to intergenerational relationships hopefully emerges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1077-1083
Number of pages7
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge support from Israel Science Foundation grant for the International Workshop on ‘Intergeneration Transfer and Support: New Agenda for Research and Policy’, which was held in 2008 at the Center for Research and Study of Aging, The University of Haifa, Israel, and where most of the articles in this special issue were first presented.


  • intergenerational relationships
  • methodology
  • social change
  • theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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