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Understanding Family Complexity in the Study of Intergenerational Relationships: Evidence from the Longitudinal Study of Generations. Merril Silverstein, Ph.D. Professor of Gerontology and Sociology Davis School of Gerontology Department of Sociology University of Southern California.

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slide1

Understanding Family Complexity in the Study of Intergenerational Relationships:Evidence from the Longitudinal Study of Generations

Merril Silverstein, Ph.D.

Professor of Gerontology and Sociology

Davis School of Gerontology

Department of Sociology

University of Southern California

families through historical time
Families Through Historical Time
  • Increased longevity means greater co-survival between generations and prolonged relationships.
  • Possible kinship issues
      • Fertility decline
      • Higher prevalence of divorce, remarriage, step-families
      • Geographic distance increasing
      • Weaker sense of filial obligation
  • How to study social change in real time instead of using retrospective reports or using “proxy” evidence?
  • How to better approach families systemically?
studies of families and social change
Studies of Families and Social Change
  • Using a single individual as informant about family process at one historical moment limits research questions that can be addressed
      • Use of retrospective reports has biases
      • Cross-sectional comparisons regarding social change of interest (e.g., divorced vs. married) ignores socio-historical context
      • Cohort studies in repeated cross-sections ignore intra-familial dependence and cannot address issues that require parent-child data
generational sequential design
Generational-Sequential Design
  • Members of different generations in the same families measured at the same age but at different historical periods to test for effects of social conditions at a common life-stage.
  • Useful for studying age-dependent processes where social conditions are also changing.
comparison of intergenerational relations across historical contexts
Comparison of Intergenerational Relations Across Historical Contexts
  • Historical/generational change in the quality of intergenerational relationships
    • Requires early reports from parents and later reports from children
  • Has the quality of older parent-child relations weakened over historical time?
  • If so, is this related to:
    • Increasing geographic distance
    • Rising divorce rates
    • Weakening norms of familism
the usc longitudinal study of generations lsog
The USC Longitudinal Study of Generations (LSOG)
  • A multigenerational multi-time-point study, started in 1971 with repeated panels  2005.
  • Consists of about 3,000 individuals from 374 three-generation families recruited within Southern California region.
  • Full families are surveyed: grandparents, parents, and grandchildren (16+), including siblings, spouses, former spouses.
  • Fourth generation added in 1991 (Fifth generation in 2010).
application of generational sequential design
Application of Generational Sequential Design
  • Do G3 children maintain less close relationship to their parents than G2 parents maintained with their parents?
  • Is so, does a G3-G2 difference persist after controlling for individual-level variables representing the “social change” of interest.
  • Methodological individualism: characteristics of serial generations proxy the social change of interest by virtue of their unique historical/cohort experiences.
sample design
Sample & Design
  • Data for this analysis from LSOG: 554 G2s in 1971 and their G3 children surveyed between 1991  2005.
    • G2s averaged 44 years of age in 1971.
    • G3s reached the age of each parent somewhere between 1991-2005. For each G3 we use the survey that matches the closest to their parent’s 1971 age.
  • Use multilevel modeling to estimate change in emotional closeness to parents over time in G2s and G3s, comparing (1) slopes and (2) levels at the historical time when they match in age.
cross generational comparisons in the lsog

T1

T2

T3

T4

T5

T6

T7

T8

Year

1971

1985

1988

1991

1994

1997

2000

2005

G2

43

57

60

63

66

59

72

77

G3

20

34

37

40

43

46

49

54

G4

16

19

22

25

30

Cross-Generational Comparisons in the LSOG
cross generational comparisons in the lsog1

T1

T2

T3

T4

T5

T6

T7

T8

Year

1971

1985

1988

1991

1994

1997

2000

2005

G2

43

57

60

63

66

59

72

77

G3

20

34

37

40

43

46

49

54

G4

16

19

22

25

30

Cross-Generational Comparisons in the LSOG
cross generational sequential
Cross Generational-Sequential
  • Transmission of values, attitudes, beliefs, behavioral tendencies across age-matched generations within the same families.
  • Multi-actor data?
  • Causal direction?
  • Research questions focusing on interdependencies and influence across family actors over time call for unique approaches.
slide21
Religion is a family affair.
  • Children are socialized to religious traditions by parents and grandparents
    • Do grandparents influence the values, attitudes, and beliefs of their grandchildren beyond the influence of parents, synergistically with parents, and as mediated by parents?
lsog data lagged triads
LSOG Data: Lagged Triads
  • Grandparents in 1971 (mean age =44)
    • G2 = 257
  • Parents in 1988 (mean age = 40)
    • G3 = 341
  • Grandchildren in 2005 (mean age = 31)
    • G4 = 565
measures of religiosity
Measures of Religiosity
  • Practice
    • Attendance at religious services: “never” to “everyday”
  • Salience
    • Importance of “a religious life” ranked among 13 social values
  • Identity
    • How religious are you?: “not at all” to “very religious”
  • Beliefs
    • Strength of conservative religious beliefs: agreement with statements
      • God exists in the form as described in the Bible
      • All people today are descendents of Adam and Eve
      • All children should receive religious training
      • Religion should play an important role in daily life
  • Additive scale (standardized factor score) computed for each generation
nesting of grandchildren in two three generational families basis for multi level modeling
Nesting of Grandchildren in Two Three-Generational Families: Basis for Multi-level Modeling

Parent #1

Parent #1

Parent #2

Parent #2

Parent #3

Grandparent: Green

Grandparent: Red

empirical results from multilevel models transmission of religiosity
Empirical Results from Multilevel Models Transmission of Religiosity

.10*

.32***

.38***

Grandparent Religiosity

1971

ParentReligiosity

1988

GrandchildReligiosity

2004

slide26
Parents’ direct influence is almost four times that of grandparents, but grandparents do directly influence their grandchildren net of parents.
  • Grandparents also indirectly influence their grandchildren through parents. Total influence of grandparents (.22) is 58% that of parents (.38).

Source: Copen & Silverstein, 2007, Journal of Comparative Family Studies.

slide27
Grandchildren are most religious when both their parents and grandparents are more religious.
  • Suggests that several generations together reinforce a family culture of religiosity.
slide28
Grandparents are better able to transmit their religiosity to grandchildren within intact families.
  • Parental divorce is associated with less religiosity in their children; grandparents do not compensate.
measures of gender role attitude
Measures of Gender Role Attitude
  • Husbands ought to have the main say in family matters [Disagree]
  • Women’s liberation ideas make a lot of sense to me [Agree]
  • It goes against nature to put women in positions of authority over men [Disagree]
  • Women who want to remove the word “obey” from the marriage service don’t understand what it means to be a good wife. [Disagree]
  • Additive scale (standardized factor score) computed for each generation
slide30

Empirical Results from Multilevel Models Transmission of Gender Role Attitudes

.11

.10*

Mother Contact with Grandmother

1988

Grandmother Gender Role Attitudes

1971

GrandchildGender Role Attitudes

2005

.09**

.16**

Mother Role Attitudes

1988

summary
Summary
  • Generational-sequential designs provide useful tools for understanding how societal change is manifest in micro-family environments and across multiple family members.
  • Generational differences can be investigated with GSD in terms of change across cohorts
    • Intergenerational ties weakening over historical time.
  • And in terms of cross-cohort continuity
    • Intergenerational transmission occurring (and possibly changing) over historical time.