Generational Juggling

Family Communication at Midlife

Authored by: Karen L. Fingerman , Kira Birditt , Jon Nussbaum , Diana S. Ebersole

The Routledge Handbook of Family Communication

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  November  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415881982
eBook ISBN: 9780203848166
Adobe ISBN: 9781136946370


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Adulthood, like a good story, has a beginning, middle, and an end. Like many stories, however, the beginning and the end of adulthood are more clearly explicated than the middle. Although the start of adulthood in most Western societies does not involve a formal ceremony, there are definable indicators of this period of life. As a matter of course, in general, young adults complete schooling, search for paid work, find mates, and start new families (Furstenberg, 2010). Likewise, late adulthood includes physical and social markers such as retirement, an intensification of ties to family, chronic disease, and physical decline. But, what are the characteristics of midlife, and how do these characteristics shape family communication? What occurs in the middle years of adult family life that differentiates it from the beginning and the end?

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