Family Dynamics and the Life Course
• What is it like to be a parent? What are the key issues across ethnic groups? What forms of parenting are there?
• How do middle-aged adults interact with their children? How do they deal with the possibility of providing care to aging parents?
• How do grandparents interact with their grandchildren? What key issues are involved?
usan is a 42-year-old married woman with two preadolescent children. She is an only child. Her mother, Esther, is a 67-year-old widow and has been showing signs of dementia. Esther has little money, and Susan’s family is barely making ends meet. Susan knows that her mother cannot live alone much longer, and she feels that she should have her move in with their family. Susan feels that she has an obligation to provide care but also feels torn between her mother and her family and job. Susan wonders what to do.
Increasingly, families are facing the dilemma confronting Susan. As more people live long lives, the need for families to deal with health problems in their older members is on the rise. Most people understand the issues involved with raising children, but few of us are socialized for parental care.
In this section, we examine several issues relating to family dynamics. First we examine the parental role, how this varies across ethnic groups, and different forms of parenting. Important issues confront middle-aged couples: adult children moving out (and sometimes moving back) and the prospect of caring for aging parents like Susan is doing. We conclude with a discussion of grandparenthood.