THE AGED IN BLACK MIDDLE CLASS FAMILIES: A STUDY IN INTERGENERATIONAL RELATIONS
This dissertation examines: (a) how the elderly in black middle and upper income families relate with their kin; (b) how the middle generation cope with aging problems of their parents; and (c) the family context where youthful and elderly attitudes are formed. This was done through an analysis of three arenas of interactions between the elderly and their kin. These included living arrangements of the elderly and their adult children, contacts and communications between the aged and their kin and the familial support system adopted. A fourth concern of the study includes the exploration of values and norms, perceptions and attitudes that underlie and influence the behavior of each generation toward the other. Methodologically the study employed the techniques of participant observation, direct observation, but greatly relied on a questionnaire schedule which was used in the collection of personal data from the subjects. Findings. In terms of living arrangements, it was found that the ideal and general preference for both the elderly individuals and their adult children was an independent household for each generation. However, the majority of the elderly sample (sixty-eight percent) were living in households containing kin other than spouses. For instance, the aged brought adult children, grandchildren, and sometimes other elderly siblings to live with them. The same thing was true for the middle generation who adopted various strategies to keep in touch with their parents. For example, many devised a technique of information gathering and sharing among siblings. Another finding revealed that there was general good will and readiness among both generations regarding medical assistance, although the older the individual the more aid was needed. The study found a discrepancy between the attitudes of the elderly and the young. The elderly were experiencing a feeling of social distance while the young did not. There was, however, agreement about the treatment of the elderly in general. To conclude, the study reveals that general perceptions about the aged and their relations to kin do not correspond perfectly with social realities of the elderly. Middle class families maintained a dynamic relationship with their elderly members despite numerous factors and demands that tend to impede ongoing social interaction. Finally, attitudinal discrepancies between the elderly and the young and a feeling of social distance by the elderly did not rupture relations between the two generations.