Patterns and Processes of Intergenerational Estrangement: A Qualitative Study of Mother–Adult Child Relationships Across Time

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2021-09-22
Authors
Gilligan, Megan
J. Jill Suitor
Karl Pillemer
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Sage Journals
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Human Development and Family Studies

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies focuses on the interactions among individuals, families, and their resources and environments throughout their lifespans. It consists of three majors: Child, Adult, and Family Services (preparing students to work for agencies serving children, youth, adults, and families); Family Finance, Housing, and Policy (preparing students for work as financial counselors, insurance agents, loan-officers, lobbyists, policy experts, etc); and Early Childhood Education (preparing students to teach and work with young children and their families).

History


The Department of Human Development and Family Studies was formed in 1991 from the merger of the Department of Family Environment and the Department of Child Development.

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1991-present

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  • College of Human Sciences (parent college)
  • Department of Child Development (predecessor)
  • Department of Family Environment (predecessor)

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Abstract
Drawing from the life course perspective, we explored patterns of estrangement between mothers and their adult children across time, and the processes through which these ties remained estranged, or moved in or out of estrangement. We used a prospective design in which data were collected in face-to-face semi-structured interviews with 61 older mothers about their relationships with their 274 adult children at two time points 7 years apart. We began by examining the patterns of stability and change in intergenerational estrangement and identified movement in and out of estrangement across time. Qualitative analyses of the processes underlying estrangement revealed that movement in and out of estrangement reflected nuanced changes in contact and closeness over time rather than abrupt changes resulting from recent transitions in either mothers’ or children’s lives. Taken together, these findings illustrate the complexity of patterns and processes of intergenerational estrangement in later-life families.
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This article is published as Gilligan, M., Suitor, J.J., Pillemer, K., Patterns and Processes of Intergenerational Estrangement: A Qualitative Study of Mother–Adult Child Relationships Across Time. Research on Aging. 2021; doi: 10.1177/01640275211036966.
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