Sisters and Brothers, Daughters and Sons: Meeting the Needs of Old Parents
by Sarah H. Matthews, Ph.D.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
The number of middle-aged children today who have elderly parents is unprecedented. Having old parents, however, is rarely portrayed as a privilege. Too often parents are depicted as a problem for their adult children, in large part because of the disproportionate attention paid to the very frail, especially those with Alzheimerís disease. Rather than focusing only on adult children with very needy parents, the study reported in this book asked 149 pairs of siblings who had at least one parent over the age of 75 how they interacted with their elderly parents and one another as members of older families. How did they and their brothers and sisters meet their parentsí needs? Note that age alone, not mental and physical health, was the criterion specified for the parents. The results are not only a more realistic picture of the full spectrum of later life families, but also a much more positive one. Using the words of the siblings, the book provides a rich picture of older family life, one that questions the wisdom of associating burden with having old parents. It also makes the case that in order to understand family life it is necessary to include relationships among the members-- parents, brothers and sisters, and their spouses. Furthermore, because pairs of sibling respondents were divided equally among sister, sister-brother, and brother pairs, the ways in which the gender composition of sibling groups affected how easily parentsí needs were met is explored in the book. Written with minimal jargon, the book is intended not only for use in college classrooms to bring older families to life but also for adult children and old parents who want to understand better their older family relationships.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sarah H. Matthews chairs the Sociology Department at Cleveland State University. She is on the editorial boards of Journal of Aging Studies, Journal of Marriage and Family, and The International Journal of Aging and Human Development. She is the author of two previous books, The Social World of Old Women: Management of Self-Identity and Friendships through the Life Course: Oral Biographies in Old Age, and has published numerous articles about older family ties in gerontology journals and edited books.
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