Residential separation and patterns of interaction between elderly parents and their adult children

by G C Smith
Progress in Human Geography ()


For the majority of elderly people, ties with adult children represent the most important extramarital component of their family networks, informal support systems and social relationships. The main purpose of this article is to examine theoretical and empirical research contributions which address the geographical context of these integenerational ties. Theoretical perspectives are outlined concerning spatial aspects of kind networks in industrial and post-industrial society, and the effects of distinctive life-course events on residential mobility. Empirical research findings on the determinants and social consequences of integenerational spatial separation are then reviewed. Overall, spatial separation is disclosed as a key factor governing both the amounts and styles of interaction between parents and adult children. However, some recent results suggest that trends towards economic instability and family disruption associated with postindustrial change are limiting the potential for intergenerational spatial propinquity and interaction, especially within lower-income families. On the basis of a discussion of the theoretical and policy implications of the empirical findings, suggestions are offered for further geographical research on intergenerational ties.

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