Session #4 – Intergenerational Social Networks

Family Relationships in Life Course Context: Findings from the Three-Generation Youth Development Study

Jeylan T. Mortimer and Jennifer Doty
University of Minnesota

The family is a long-term intergenerational network of interacting actors. Family ties constitute “investments” and “safety nets” through time, with the history of such ties having long-term implications for individual welfare and attainments across generations. This chapter examines the dynamics of parent-child relationships and child well being from a life course perspective. We investigate three types of parental support through the transition to adulthood: emotional, as indicated by the quality of the parent-child relationship; financial, or the provision of aid for education and living expenses; and residential. We present empirical findings from the three-generation Youth Development Study. This panel study began in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a community sample of more than 1,000 9th graders (G2), who were surveyed along with their parents (G1) during high school. These youth have been followed for two decades, with 19 waves of survey data collection from ages 14-15 to 37-38. In 2008, we began recruiting the children of this cohort, with G3 surveys administered in 2009, 2010, and 2011. At least one survey has been obtained from 422 G3 respondents. A growth mixture model latent trajectory analysis shows three pathways of G1 mother-G2 child relationship quality, indicating persistently close relationships as youth moved from adolescence to early adulthood; increasing closeness over time; and diminishing closeness. We examine these trajectories in relation to G2 mental health. Our findings also indicate the importance of more tangible familial support, financial and residential, during the transition to adulthood. The timing of such support appears to have divergent implications for adult children’s socioeconomic attainment. Findings from the G3 study show that the G2 child’s relationship with her own mother during adolescence significantly predicts the warmth and closeness of the bond between grandmother (G1) and grandchild (G3). Finally, we demonstrate the continuity of achievement orientations (educational plans and academic self-concepts) across three generations.

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How Much Can Be Expected of One Child? Consequences of Multiplexity of Mothers’ Favoritism on Adult Children’s Psychological Well-Being and Bereavement Processes

Jill Suitor
Purdue University

Megan Gilligan
Iowa State University

Siyun Peng
Purdue University

More than half a century ago, Sigmund Freud, who was his mother’s favorite, and Alfred Adler, who was not, proposed that parental favoritism was consequential for children’s development (Freud, 1961; Adler, 1956). Since the 1980s, developmental psychologists have documented that, indeed, parental differential treatment (PDT) is associated with decreased well-being in childhood and adolescence. Over the past decade, this line of research has been extended to the study of the predictors and consequences of parental differential treatment in adulthood. Taken together, these studies suggest that PDT has detrimental effects on relational and psychological well-being in adulthood as well as childhood. In the present paper, we raise two important questions that have not been addressed in this work and that bring together both substantive and methodological issues central to the study of the life course and egocentric networks. First, what role does multiplexity play in the consequences of mothers’ favoritism on adult children’s psychological well-being? Does each dimension of favoritism have an independent effect on well-being that is not increased when these dimensions are cumulated, or is the effect of being mothers’ favored child greater when it crosses relational domains? Second, if multiplex favoritism is consequential, is this only when mothers are alive, or does it also affect children’s well-being during bereavement? To address these questions, we use data collected at two points 7 years apart from approximately 500 adult children nested within 350 families, as part of the Within-Family Differences Study I & II. The dimensions of favoritism that are the focus of the present paper are adult children’s perceptions of emotional closeness, confiding, and preferences for care. Multi-level modeling revealed that greater multiplexity of mothers’ favoritism was associated with higher depressive symptoms when mothers were living, and with both higher depressive symptoms and lower adjustment following mothers’ death. Qualitative data suggest that these patterns are fueled by children’s perceptions of heavy expectations placed on them by their mothers and greater conflict experienced with their siblings. These findings suggest that it is important to take multiplexity into consideration in studies of the effects of parental favoritism on adult children’s well-being. In particular, the patterns indicate that there are cumulative effects of favoritism that extend even beyond the relationship that adult children experience when their mothers are alive.

Paper and presentation coming soon.


Linked Religious Lives Across Generational Time in Family Lineages

Merril Silverstein
Syracuse University

Vern Bengtson
University of Southern California

Profound changes have occurred in religious orientations over the last few decades with religious seekers finding new spiritual paths and increasing proportions of young adults claiming weak religious identification and no denominational affiliation.  Yet, religiosity is a trait deeply embedded within families and transmitted across generations through formal training, informal instruction, and behavioral modeling.  In this paper we examine the extent to which religiosity is stable across generations, specifically to understand how grandparents and parents influence the religious attendance, beliefs, values, and intensity of their adolescent and young adult grandchildren and children, respectively.  Drawing on the Longitudinal Study of Generations a four-decade study of multi-generational families, we analyzed lineages consisting of grandchildren participating in 2005 (M age=28, N=565), parents participating in 1988 (M age=38, N=341) and grandparents participating  in 1971 (M age=45; N=257).  Grandchildren were clustered (as siblings) within nuclear families which were clustered within extended-families, each headed by a common set of grandparents.  Estimating a three-level hierarchical linear model, we found that grandparents and parents independently and synergistically transmitted their religious orientations to the youngest generation.  However, infrequent contact with grandparents earlier in life and parental divorce tempered the strength of transmission of religiosity from grandparents to grandchildren.  Thus, grandparents can be important conveyers of religious tradition—both directly and indirectly through parents—depending on early family conditions. We conclude that in spite of substantial weakening and diversification of religious identification over the last quarter century, religion still forms a common thread that stretches across multiple generations in the family.

Paper and presentation coming soon.