Perspectives on the Family and Stress in Late Life

  • Leonard I. Pearlin
  • Marilyn M. Skaff
Part of the The Springer Series in Adult Development and Aging book series (SSAD)


This chapter is organized around what we regard as the three principal functions of the family within the context of the stress process. First, the family is an arena in which Stressors are generated by the problematic interactions of its members. Second, in their multiple social roles outside the family boundaries, family members may encounter problems that impact adversely on relationships and activities within the family. Third, the family is a social group able to mobilize resources in support of its members as they contend with life problems, regardless of the source of the problems (Pearlin & Turner, 1987).


Adult Child Successful Aging American Sociological Review Marital Relationship Late Life 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aldwin, C. M. (1990). The elders life stress inventory: Egocentric and non-egocentric stress. In M. A. Stevens, S. E. Hobfall, J. N. Crawther, & D. L. Tennenbaum (Eds.), Stress and coping in later-life families (pp. 49–69). New York: Hemisphere.Google Scholar
  2. Aldwin, C. M., Sutton, K. J., Chiara, Q., & Spiro, A. (1996). Age differences in stress, coping and appraisal: Findings from the normative aging study. Journal of Gerontology, 51, P179–P188.Google Scholar
  3. Aneshensel, C. S., Pearlin, L. I., Mullan, J. T., Zarit, S., & Whitlatch, C. (1995). Profiles in caregiving: The unexpected career. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  4. Aneshensel, C. S., Rutter, C. M., & Lachenbruch, P. A. (1991). Social structure, stress, and mental health: Competing conceptual and analytic models. American Sociological Review, 56, 166–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Antonucci, T. C. (1994). A life-span view of women’s social relations. In B. J. Turner & L. S. Troll (Eds.), Women growing older (pp. 239–269). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  6. Antonucci, T. C., & Jackson, J. S. (1990). The role of reciprocity in social support. In B. R. Sarason & G. R. Pierce (Eds.), Social support: An interactional view (pp. 173–198). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Baltes, P. B., & Baltes, M. M. (1990). Psychological perspectives on successful aging: The model of selective optimization with compensation. In P. B. Baltes & M. M. Baltes (Eds.), Successful aging: Perspectives for the social sciences (pp. 1–34). Cambridge, NJ: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barber, C. E. (1980). Gender differences in expressing the transition to the empty nest: Reports of middle aged and older women and men. Family Perspectives, 14, 87–95.Google Scholar
  9. Bengtson, V. L., & Achtenbaum, W. A. (1993). The changing contract across generations. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  10. Bengtson, V. L., Rosenthal, C., & Burton, L. (1990). Families and aging: Diversity and heterogeneity. In R. H. Binstock & L. K. George (Eds.), Handbook of aging and the social sciences (3rd ed., pp. 263–287). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  11. Cooney, T. M., & Smith, L. C. (1996). Young adults’ relations with grandparents following recent parental divorce. Journal of Gerontology, 51, S91–S95.Google Scholar
  12. Dannefer, D. (1987). Aging as intracohort differentiation: Accentuation, the Matthew Effect, and the life course. Sociological Forum, 2, 211–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Elder, G. H., George, L. K., & Shanahan, M. G. (1996). Psychosocial stress over the life course. In H. Kaplan (Ed.), Perspectives on psychosocial stress (pp. 245–290). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  14. Fisher, L. (1982). Transactional theories but individual assessment: A frequent discrepancy in family research. Family Process, 21, 313–320.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. George, L. K. (1986). Caregiver burden: Conflict between norms of reciprocity and solidarity. In K. G. Pillemer & R. S. Wolf (Eds.), Elder abuse: Conflict in the family (pp. 67–92). Dover, MA: Auburn House.Google Scholar
  16. George, L. K. (1993). Sociological perspectives on life transitions. Annual Review of Sociology, 19, 353–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. George, L. K. (1996). Missing links: The case for a social psychology of the life course. Gerontologist, 36, 248–255.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. George, L. K., & Gwyther, L. P. (1986). Caregiver well-being: A multidimensional examination of family caregivers of demented adults. Gerontologist, 26, 253–259.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Greenberg, J. S., Seltzer, M., & Greenley, J. R. (1993). Aging parents of adults with disabilities. Gerontologist, 33, 542–550.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Johnson, C., & Barer, B. M. (1987). Marital instability and the changing networks of grandparents. Gerontologist, 27, 330–335.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kahn, R. L., & Antonucci, T. C. (1980). Convoys over the life course: Attachment, roles, and social support. In P. B. Baltes & O. G. Brim (Eds.), Life-span development and behavior (Vol. 3, pp. 253–286). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  22. Kessler, R. C., & McLeod, J. D. (1984). Sex differences in vulnerability to undesirable life events. American Sociological Review, 49, 620–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kohn, M. L. (1969). Class and conformity: A study in values. Homewood, IL: Dorsey Press.Google Scholar
  24. Krause, N. (1994). Stressors in salient social roles and well-being in later life. Journal of Gerontology, 49, P137–P148.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lebowitz, B. D. (1978). Old age and family functioning. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 1, 111–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Litwak, E. (1960). Geographic mobility and extended family cohesion. American Sociological Review, 25, 385–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mancini, J. A., & Simon, J. (1984). Expectations of support from family and friends. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 3, 150–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Menaghan, E. G. (1994). The daily grind: Work Stressors, family patterns, and intergenerational outcomes. In W. R. Avison & S. H. Gotlib (Eds.), Stress and mental health: Contemporary issues and prospects for the future (pp. 115–147). New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  29. Merton, R. K. (1957). The role set: Problems in sociological theory. British Journal of Sociology, 8, 106–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Midanik, L. T, Soghikian, K., Ransom, L. J., & Tekawa, I. S. (1995). The effect of retirement on mental health and health behaviors. Journal of Gerontology, 50, S59–S62.Google Scholar
  31. Parsons, T., & Bales, R. J. (1955). Family, socialization and interaction process. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.Google Scholar
  32. Pearlin, L. I. (1980). The life cycle and life strains. In H. M. Blalock, Jr. (Ed.), Sociological theory and research: A critical approach (pp. 349–360). New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  33. Pearlin, L. I. (1982). The social contexts of stress. In L. Goldberger & S. Breznitz (Eds.), Handbook of stress (pp. 367–379). New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  34. Pearlin, L. I. (1983). Role strains and personal stress. In H. B. Kaplan (Ed.), Psychosocial stress: Trends in theory and research (pp. 3–32). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  35. Pearlin, L. I. (1989). The sociological study of stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 30, 241–256.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pearlin, L. I. (1991). The study of coping: Problems and directions. In J. Eckenrode (Ed.), The social context of coping (pp. 261–276). New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  37. Pearlin, L. I., & Aneshensel, C. S. (1994). Caregiving: The unexpected career. Social Justice Research, 7, 373–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pearlin, L. I., Aneshensel, C. S., & LeBlanc, A. J. (1997). The forms and mechanisms of stress proliferation: The case of AIDs caregivers. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 38, 223–236.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pearlin, L. I., & Johnson, J. S. (1977). Marital status, life-strains and depression. American Sociological Review, 42, 704–714.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pearlin, L. I., & Kohn, M. L. (1966). Social class, occupation, and parental values: A cross-national study. American Sociological Review, 31, 466–479.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pearlin, L. I., & Lieberman, M. A. (1979). Social sources of emotional distress. In R. Simmons (Ed.), Research in community and mental health (pp. 217–248). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  42. Pearlin, L. I., Lieberman, M. A., Menaghan, E., & Mullan, J. T. (1981). The stress process. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 22, 337–356.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pearlin, L. I., & McCall, M. E. (1990). Occupational stress and marital support: A description of microprocesses. In J. Eckenrode & S. Gore (Eds.), Stress between work and family (pp. 39–60). New York: Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pearlin, L. I., Mullan, J. T., Semple, S. J., & Skaff, M. M. (1990). Caregiving and the stress process: An overview of concepts and their measures. Gerontologist, 30, 583–594.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pearlin, L. I., & Radabaugh, C. (1985). Age and stress: Perspectives and problems. In B. H. Hess & E. W. Markson (Eds.), Growing old in America (3rd ed., pp. 293–308). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books.Google Scholar
  46. Pearlin, L. I., & Schooler, C. (1978). The structure of coping. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 19, 2–21.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pearlin, L. I., & Skaff, M. M. (1995). Stressors and adaptation in late life. In M. Gatz (Ed.), Emerging issues in mental health and aging (pp. 97–123). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pearlin, L. I., & Skaff, M. M. (1996). Stress and the life course: A paradigmatic alliance. Gerontologist, 36, 239–247.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pearlin, L. I., & Turner, H. A. (1987). The family as a context of the stress process. In S. V. Kasl & C. Cooper (Eds.), Stress and health: Issues in research methodology (pp. 143-165).Google Scholar
  50. Ponzetti, J. J., & Johnson, M. A. (1991). The forgotten grievers: Grandparents’ reactions to the death of grandchildren. Death Studies, 15, 157–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rodin, J. (1986). Aging and health: Effects of the sense of control. Science, 233, 1271–1276.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rook, K. S. (1984). The negative side of social interaction: Impact on psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 1097–1108.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rosenberg, M., & McCullough, B. C. (1981). Mattering: Inferred significance and mental health among adolescents. In R. G. Simmons (Ed.), Research in community and mental health (Vol. 2, pp. 163–182). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  54. Schafer, R. B., & Keith, P. M. (1981). Equity in marital roles across the life cycle. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 43, 359–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Skaff, M. M., & Pearlin, L. I. (1992). Caregiving: Role engulfment and the loss of self. Gerontologist, 32, 656–664.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Speare, A., & Avery, R. (1993). Who helps whom in older parent-child families. Journal of Gerontology, 48, S64–S73.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Suitor, J. J., & Pillemer, K. (1993). Support and interpersonal stress in the social networks of married daughters caring for parents with dementia. Journal of Gerontology, 48, S1–S8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Szinovacz, M. (1984). Changing family roles and interactions. Marriage and Family Reviews, 7, 163–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Thoits, P. G. (1983). Dimensions of life events that influence psychological distress: An evaluation and synthesis of the literature. In H. B. Kaplan (Ed.), Psychosocial stress: Trends in theory and research (pp. 33–104). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  60. Tobin, S. S. (1996). A non-normative old age contrast: Elderly parents caring for children with mental retardation. In V. L. Bengtson (Ed.), Adulthood and aging: Research on continuities and discontinuities (pp. 124–142). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  61. Tower, R. B., & Kasl, S. V. (1996). Gender, marital closeness, and depressive symptoms in elderly couples. Journal of Gerontology, 51, P115–P129.Google Scholar
  62. Treas, J., & Bengtson, V. L. (1987). The family in later years. In M. B. Sussman & S. K. Steinmetz (Eds.), Handbook of marriage and the family (pp. 625–648). New York: Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Troll, L. E., & Bengtson, V. L. (1992). The oldest old in families: An intergenerational perspective. Generations, 16, 39–44.Google Scholar
  64. Turner, R. J., Wheaton, B., & Lloyd, D. A. (1995). The epidemiology of social stress. American Sociological Review, 60, 104–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Webster, P. S., & Herzog, A. R. (1995). Effects of parental divorce and memories of family problems on relationships between adult children and their parents. Journal of Gerontology, 50, S24–S34.Google Scholar
  66. Wheaton, B. (1990). Where work and family meet: Stress across social roles. In J. Eckenrode & S. Gore (Eds.), Stress between work and family (pp. 153–174). New York: Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wheaton, B. (1995). Sampling the stress universe. In W. R. Avison & I. H. Gotlieb (Eds.), Stress and mental health: Contemporary issues and prospects for the future (pp. 77–114). New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  68. Zarit, S. H., Orr, N. K., & Zarit, J. M. (1985). The hidden victims of Alzheimer’s disease: Families under stress. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leonard I. Pearlin
    • 1
  • Marilyn M. Skaff
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations