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The Comforter: Providing Personal Advice and Emotional Support to Generations in the Family

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 November 2010

Carolyn J. Rosenthal
Affiliation:
Department of Behavioural Science, University of Toronto

Abstract

This paper presents a novel conceptualization of emotional support in intergenerational families. In a stratified random sample of 458 adults in Hamilton, Ontario, over half the respondents said that there was currently, or had been in the past, a person in their family to whom other family members turned for emotional support and personal advice. In the paper, this person is referred to as the “comforter.” Many people also identified the person who provided emotional support prior to the present comforter. On the basis of the data, a “position” of family comforter is inferred. The paper investigates the social correlates of the position, the type of activities associated with being the family comforter, and the pattern of succession as different generations in the family move in and out of the position. The paper demonstrates the family provision of emotional support at the level of the extended family. It is shown that occupancy, activities and succession of the comforter position are patterned by gender. Further, the data suggest that people seek emotional support from a generational peer.

Résumé

Cet article propose une conception inusitée du soutien moral dans les familles intergénérationnelles. L'étude s'est déroulée à Hamilton en Ontario. Un échantillon stratifié, prélevé au hasard et composé de 458 adultes a fait l'objet de l'enquête. Selon plus de la moitié des participants, il existe actuellement, ou bien il a déja existé, une personne au sein de la famille sur laquelle les divers membres de la famille s'appuient lorsqu'ils ont besoin de soutien moral ou de conseils personnels. Dans son article, l'auteur qualifie cette personne de “consolant”. Plusieurs participants ont également identifié le prédécesseur du consolant qui exerce actuellement cette fonction. L'auteur conclut, en se basant sur les données recueillies, que la “position” de consolant familial existe effectivement. Elle examine les coordonnées sociales du poste, les activités associées à ce rôle et la formule de succession utilisée pour répondre au mouvement des générations. L'article démontre que la famille procure le soutien moral au niveau de la famille étendue et révèle que la désignation, les fonctions et le successeur du consolant sont déterminés en grande partie par le sexe. De plus, les données suggèrent que les personnes recherchent le soutien moral chez un parent appartenant à la même génération qu'eux.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Canadian Association on Gerontology 1987

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