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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\nthe most important extramarital component of their family networks,\ninformal support systems and social relationships. The main purpose\nof this article is to examine theoretical and empirical research\ncontributions which address the geographical context of these intergenerational\nties. Theoretical perspectives are outlined concerning spatial aspects\nof kin networks in industrial and postindustrial society, and the\neffects of distinctive Life-course events on residential mobility.\nEmpirical research findings on the determinants and social consequences\nof intergenerational spatial separation are then reviewed. Overall,\nspatial separation is disclosed as a key factor governing both the\namounts and styles of interaction between parents and adult children.\nHowever, some recent results suggest that trends towards economic\ninstability and family disruption associated with postindustrial\nchange are limiting the potential for intergenerational spatial propinquity\nand interaction, especially within lower-income families. On the\nbasis of a discussion of the theoretical and policy implications\nof the empirical findings, suggestions are offered for further geographical\nresearch on intergenerational ties.

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