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Stability and change in the intergenerational family: a convoy approach


There have been fundamental changes in the intergenerational family, and yet families continue to be an important part of people's lives. We use the convoy model to describe the factors that influence supportive relations within intergenerational families, beginning with a description of the changing structure of the intergenerational family. We next outline support exchanges, detailing how personal characteristics, especially gender, race, age and socio-economic status, and situational characteristics, in particular family structure and intergenerational context, influence support exchanges. Instrumental and emotional family exchanges are described, with special attention to the unique circumstances of care-giving in intergenerational families. We also examine the importance of recognising differences in the quality of intergenerational relations, again noting the influence of personal and situational characteristics. Variations in support quality, e.g. positive, negative and ambivalent, and its influence on wellbeing are discussed. As families and individuals change, differences emerge at the individual, family and societal levels. We consider the implications of changes and stability in intergenerational relations and make recommendations about how best to envisage and plan future intergenerational family support. Societies with fewer resources as well as individuals and families with diverse individual histories must be innovative and creative in meeting the needs of older people as well as those of all family members.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Toni C. Antonucci, Institute for Social Research, 426 Thompson Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248, USA. E-mail:
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