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Exploring generational intelligence as a model for examining the process of intergenerational relationships

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 November 2010

School of Social and Political Science, University of Melbourne, Australia.
School of Applied Educational Science and Teacher Education, University of Eastern Finland, Finland.
Center for Research and Study of Aging, Haifa University, Israel.
Address for correspondence: Simon Biggs, School of Social and Political Science, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia. E-mail:


The purpose of this article is to examine an emerging model of intergenerational relationships that takes as its starting point the degree to which it is possible to place oneself in the position of a person of another age, the ‘age-other’. The paper explores an experiential approach that draws on both sociological thinking on ‘generational consciousness’ and a debate in family gerontology on the relationships between conflict, solidarity and ambivalence. The main emphasis is on the processes of generational experience, and a working distinction is made between the informational ‘intelligence’ that is culturally available to social actors and the degree to which it is possible ‘to act intelligently’. The latter itemises the steps that would need to be taken to become critically self-aware of age as a factor in social relations, including the relative ability to recognise one's personal generational distinctiveness, acquiring understanding of the relationship between generations, critical awareness of the value stance being taken toward generational positions, and finally, acting in a manner that is generationally aware. The paper concludes with a consideration of how sustainable generational relations can be encouraged and the implications for future research into intergenerational relationships.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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