What is the impact of an increased geographic distance separating older adults from their own adult children?
The geographic distance separating aging parents from their children and its effects on aging parents is a social issue unique to North America and possibly Russia. Canada, the United States, and Russia are three of the largest nations geographically. This fact gives rise to the increased possibility of children migrating away from home and at further distances then any of the countries in Europe for example. This issue is important for social scientists to consider because of two reasons. First, the social support network for all people generally includes family members. It is sometimes difficult for aging parents to get the social support they need from their children when the are separated by such great distances. Secondly, if aging parents decide to eventually move closer to their children, they may lose the other half of their social support network, which includes neighbours and friends acquired over the years. By moving to a new place later in life, the aging parents may feel disconnected from society, and may not have the energy to form new relationships, which could put more stress on the adult children's time. I hope to gain insights into any regrets, elder parents (and, or grandparents) might have because of not having lived closer to their children and grandchildren. I also want to see how often contact is made with children and which children (particularly differences in gender and age of children) they are most in contact with. One unanswered question I have concerning this issue is what sort of regrets an elder parent might have from living far away from children.
Some theoretical perspectives relevant to this issue include role theory, exchange theory, intergenerational interaction, and the theory of attachment. The first is role theory which has been used to research the loss of roles through aging (such as when children leave the nest) and for the gaining of new roles through aging (such as retirement). Exchange theory was used by Hogan, Eggebeen, and Clogg 1993, when they applied it to research on the family. Dowd (1975) "applied exchange theory to aging, suggesting that decreased interaction between the old and the young was because the old had fewer resources to contribute to intergenerational exchanges." This may restrict contact elders have with their children, or may not affect the amount of contact at all. Intergenerational interaction is a theory used by Ge Lin and Peter A. Rogerson in their article Elderly Parents and the Geographic Availability of Their Adult Children 1995. Proximity determines not only the type of interaction but also the frequency of interaction. Investigations using this theoretical perspective have revealed that the geographic distance between parents and their offspring is the fundamental determinant of interaction between them. Lastly, the theory of attachment is used by Victor G. Cicirelli in his article Adult Children's Attachment and Helping Behavior to Elderly Parents: A Path Model (from the Journal of Marriage and the Family 1983). This theory though originally applied to the infant-mother relationship, has recently been used in conjunction with relationship in later life. Attachment to a parent does not end in childhood, but endures throughout the life span. This theory has been used by Cicirelli to help explain why children continue to remain in contact with their elderly parents regardless of geographic distance separating them. A theoretical perspective that I think provides a useful basis for understanding is the theory of intergenerational bond. Using the guidelines of this theory, it would be safe to say that the greater the bond between parent and child, or even grandparent and grandchild, the greater the amount of contact. Some questions that this theoretical perspective leads us to ask is: do parents have a stronger bond to daughters and grand daughters than to sons and grand sons? If this is the case, is that why the majority of reference ...
This is an interview based research paper studying the geographic distance separating aging parents from their children and its effects on older adult parents. 10 page paper complete with bibliography and list of interview questions. This is also relevant to gender issues in that it examines which child (son or daughter) is most likely to remain in close contact with their parents as they age.