Intergenerational Families and Stepfamilies

  1. On pages 228-230 of chapter 9, the authors present a new theory of extrusion (p. 213). Consider that you are a family professional working in an agency that focuses on adolescent runaways; what are three pieces of information in this section that would help you do your job better?
  2. Read the section Theorizing Intergenerational Family Solidarity (pp. 395-397). Identify and discuss three issues that you believe are important today for professionals to understand who work with families who live in intergenerational households. –

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For question 1

extrusion (p. 213).

Our purpose in this chapter is fourfold: We want to demonstrate (a) how to advance theory by empirically testing the validity of a theory in a real-life situation, (b) how to advance theory by generating new theory through qualitative methods, (c) how theory guides practical interventions that address problems, and (d) how to address the intersections of three theories, two research methods, and the demographic characteristics (e.g., educational level, ethnicity, race, social class) of researchers and research participants. We will accomplish these goals by focusing on the problem of physical extrusion of adolescents in some stepfamilies. Extrusion is defined as individuals’ being “pushed out” of their households earlier than normal for members of their cultural group, either because they are forced to leave or because remaining in their households is so stressful that they “choose” to leave.1 First, we will conceptualize and explain the phenomenon of extrusion through the lenses of three different theories (i.e., the theorizing that Bengtson et al. discuss in Chapter 1 of this volume). Second, we will show how a qualitative component of the research study can enable the researcher to discover new variables that are important for understanding extrusion. Third, we will explain how the relative ability of the extant theories explaining extrusion, augmented by the additional variables identified in the qualitative component, can be tested empirically in a quantitative research design (see Chapter 3, this volume).2 As a result of the data analysis, the variables that best predict extrusion (i.e., that explain the most variance in the measure of extrusion) form the basis for the new, advanced theory of extrusion.3 Fourth, we will demonstrate how the new theory can guide clinical interventions, community prevention and intervention programs, and policy. (Note that the case and the study discussed here are hypothetical; we created them for the pedagogical purposes of this chapter.)

228-230

Now we can explain and predict extrusion in stepfamilies with our new, more comprehensive theory better than we could with any one theory or with the qualitative component alone. Our new theory has elements from both psychology and sociology.30 We would conclude that the probability of extrusion in a stepfamily increases (a) when the adolescent cannot communicate effectively about family issues (behavioral deficit), particularly feelings about a new stepparent entering the family (variable identified by PAR; SCB theory); (b) when the stepparent and biological parent cannot communicate effectively with the adolescent (variables identified by PAR; SCB theory); (c) when the biological parent fears losing the relationship with the stepparent if the adolescent remains in the home (SCB theory); (d) when the biological parent has an insecure, dismissing attachment style, making him or her more likely to “let go of” the adolescent (variable identified by PAR; attachment theory); (e) when the adolescent reports physical or sexual abuse (variable identified by PAR); (f) when the stepparent is male, as men tend to have more power than women in conjugal relationships and are more likely to be abusive (variable identified by PAR; N-R theory); (g) when the stepparent is bringing more resources into the family than the biological parent, giving him or her more power to effect the extrusion (primarily N-R theory, secondarily SCB theory); (h) when the adolescent is not heterosexual (variable identified by PAR); and (i) when the family is from the mainstream individualist American culture as opposed to a culture strong in familism.31 The more of the listed predictors a family has, the higher the likelihood of extrusion. For example, the probability of extrusion is high in a mainstream American family in which the mother has an insecure, dismissing attachment style and lacks the skills to communicate with the adolescent, the mother relies on the stepfather for material goods, and the stepfather strikes the gay adolescent adolescent during an argument. Alternatively, if a father in a stepfamily newly immigrated from Central America has a secure attachment style, is the sole breadwinner, and can communicate openly with his heterosexual daughter about his concerns regarding his responsibility to protect her from the dangers of adolescent life in America, two outcomes are possible: no extrusion or extrusion in which the daughter is sent back to Central America to live with her aunt in a small town while her father stays in close contact with her.

Community Interventions How might our new theory guide interventions in Mendota County? Community centers and schools might add support groups that focus on communication skills for adolescent stepchildren and their parents, and for gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents and their parents. The community could seek additional support for adolescents at risk of extrusion through funding at the state level or through community block grant initiatives at the federal level, thus enhancing single parents’ access to the resources they need to support their families, helping them to be less dependent on finding new partners as a way of gaining resources. Extruded adolescents could be screened for history of abuse and given appropriate services; tax credits and programmatic support could be given to relatives and concerned citizens willing to house abused adolescents, keeping them out of the foster care system. This would be a shift in policy from a focus on reconnecting extruded adolescents with their families to finding alternative home placements for the adolescents. Therapeutic Interventions

Knowing how parents’ attachment styles can affect extrusion is of limited utility at the community level, but it is relevant for family therapy interventions. Therapists who work with families that are at risk of extruding or have extruded adolescents might focus on the parents’ attachment issues as well as on all family members’ communication skills related to helping adolescents deal with negative emotions stemming from the integration of stepparents into their families. Parents who are skilled in this type of communication might be employed as peer role models to assist families that are considering extruding adolescents as well as families that are reinte-grating previously extruded adolescents. How Have We Advanced Theory? We have attempted to show how using extant theories and results of a study with qualitative and quantitative components can advance theory

addressing a phenomenon in families. Using the results of the hypothetical study described above, we have advanced family theory by combining into new theory only the parts of the extant theories and the new variables that were related to extrusion statistically. In the narrowest application, we have advanced a family theory of stepfamily extrusion of adolescents who have been in trouble with the law. However, it is possible that this theory may predict conflict in stepfamilies in general; alternatively, it may help explain extrusion in many family structures, including both positive and negative impacts of extrusion. Our next steps in theory development would be to test the new theory with a broader population of stepfamilies and with a broader population of families that have extruded adolescents, so that scholars could use our integrative theoretical model and research method with more confidence when studying families from various ethnic, racial, class, and religious backgrounds. This theory-research-theory cycle advances theory through research and advances research through theory.

Bengston, Vern L.; Acock, Alan C.; Allen, Katherine R.; Dilworth-Anderson, Peggye; Klein, David M.. Sourcebook of Family Theory and Research (p. 230). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

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For question 2

Theorizing Intergenerational Family Solidarity (pp. 395-397).

The conceptual framework of the intergenerational family solidarity model represents an enduring attempt to examine and develop a theory of family relations for adult family life (Roberts, Richards, & Bengtson, 1991). It is reflected in the framework developed by Rossi and Rossi (1990) based on the life-course model. The paradigm of solidarity in intergenerational relationships reflects several theoretical traditions, including classic theories of social organization, the social psychology of group dynamics, and the family sociology approach. Table 16.1 summarizes these theoretical traditions. Below, we provide a more detailed history of the theoretical roots of the intergenerational solidarity model. Classic Theories of Social Organization and Relationships Understanding the nature of the bonds that create cohesion between individuals is a concern that has long occupied social researchers. More than a century ago, Durkheim (1933) made an important distinction between two solidarity types. Mechanical solidarity is the traditional family cohesion that characterized ties between individuals in the preindustrial era, based on internalization and endorsement of traditional norms and customs. This type, according to Durkheim, was weakened by industrial society and was replaced by organic solidarity, typified by mutual dependence of individuals as imposed by their relations to the division of labor. The differences between traditional and industrial societies, in Durkheim’s view, form the basic normative solidarity that leads to social cohesion. Parsons (1973) widened this theory by suggesting that several types of solidarity can exist simultaneously in various social interactions. The central contribution of these theories to later models of solidarity lies in their description

of the relevant bases of group solidarity: normative perceptions internalized by group members, functional interdependencies among group members, and consensus between group members over rules of exchange. Exchange Theory The basic assumption underlying exchange theory is that interactions between individuals or collectivities reflect attempts to maximize rewards, both material and nonmaterial. Drawing on economic cost-benefit models of social participation, Thibaut and Kelley (1959), Homans (1961), and Blau (1964) expanded this observation into a view of social behavior as exchange. As in economic exchange, the profit one derives from social exchange is equivalent to the difference between rewards and costs. Family scholars applied the social exchange framework as a starting point for explanations of relationships between parents and their adult children characterized by multidimensional resources, costs, and benefits (Dwyer, Lee, & Jankowski, 1994; Roberts et al., 1991). The intergenerational solidarity model integrates exchange theory in that individuals with resources to exchange are those who can provide various types of help and support, while the recipients are made dependent on the providers, which thereby weakens their power in the relationship (Hirdes & Strain, 1995). Family members who provide more assistance than they receive may perceive the supportive exchange as less desirable over time. In turn, the family member receiving assistance may want to avoid feeling dependent on the support provider and seek to reciprocate with other forms of assistance, such as emotional support or advice, thus “balancing” the support exchange in an effort to reciprocate (Parrott & Bengtson, 1999).

Social Psychology of Group Dynamics Research in group dynamics includes a cogent theoretical taxonomy of group solidarity elements developed by Homans and later amplified and extended by Heider. Homans (1950) identified four components: (a) interactions between group members, based on functional interdependence as described by Durkheim (1933) in organic solidarity; (b) shared activity involving group members; (c) sentiment (the affective dimension) between group members; and (d) norms for behaviors in interacting. The fundamental proposition from

the theory is this: The more cohesive the group, the more its members interact, like each other, and share similar normative expectations and commitments to group activities. Heider (1958), expanding this theory, emphasized the importance of “contact,” “liking,” and “similarity,” and noted that these should be in balance in order for the group to be effective. These social psychologists contributed to the development of the intergenerational solidarity model by extending the classic definition of consensus over rules of exchange to incorporate the notion of similarity among group members. When the classic sociological and the social psychological definitions of family solidarity are combined, five elements may be identified: normative integration, functional interdependence, similarity or consensus, mutual affection, and interaction. Family Sociology Approaches In the 1960s, when interest in defining and measuring the components of family internal relationships emerged, Nye and Rushing (1969) proposed a conceptual framework in which findings from previous research could be integrated. It posited six dimensions of family integration: associational, affectual, consensual, functional, normative, and goal integration. Bengtson and Schrader (1982) refined these components and proposed a model of intergenerational family solidarity as a multidimensional construct with six elements of solidarity: associational, affectual, consensual, functional, normative solidarity, and family structure. Subsequently, research empirically demonstrated that each of the multiple dimensions of solidarity is distinct (orthogonal) and each represents a dialectic, as Bengtson et al. (2002) point out: “(1) intimacy and distance (affectual); (2) agreement and dissent (consensual); (3) dependency and autonomy (functional); (4) integration and isolation (associational); (5) opportunities and barriers for interaction (family structure); (6) familism and individualism (normative solidarity)” (p. 571). In further analyses, the model has reflected statistically independent components that divide substantially into two general dimensions: (a) structural-behavioral (associational, functional, and structural) and (b) cognitive-affective (affectual, consensual, and normative) (Bengtson & Roberts, 1991; Silverstein & Bengtson, 1997). Thus the solidarity model has been supported by quantitative evidence as a way “to characterize the behavioral and emotional dimensions of interaction, cohesion, sentiment and support between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, over the course of long-term relationships” (Bengtson, 2001, p. 8).

Bengston, Vern L.; Acock, Alan C.; Allen, Katherine R.; Dilworth-Anderson, Peggye; Klein, David M.. Sourcebook of Family Theory and Research (p. 397). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

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