The Baby Boomers' intergenerational relationships

Karen L. Fingerman, Karl A. Pillemer, Merril Silverstein, J. Jill Suitor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Purpose: As Baby Boomers enter late life, relationships with family members gain importance. This review article highlights two aspects of their intergenerational relationships: (a) caregiving for aging parents and (b) interactions with adult children in the context of changing marital dynamics. Design and Methods: The researchers describe three studies: (a) the Within Family Differences Study (WFDS) of mothers aged 65-75 and their multiple grown children (primarily Baby Boomers) ongoing since 2001; (b) the Family Exchanges Study (FES) of Baby Boomers aged 42-60, their spouses, parents, and multiple grown children ongoing since 2008; and (c) the Longitudinal Study of Generations (LSoG) of 351 three-generation families started when the Baby Boomers were teenagers in 1971, with interviews every 3-5 years from 1985 to 2005. Results: These studies show that the Baby Boomers in midlife navigate complex intergenerational patterns. The WFDS finds aging parents differentiate among Baby Boomer children in midlife, favoring some more than others. The FES shows that the Baby Boomers are typically more involved with their children than with their aging parents; Boomers' personal values, family members' needs, and personal rewards shape decisions about support. The LSoG documents how divorce and remarriage dampen intergenerational obligations in some families. Moreover, loosening cultural norms have weakened family bonds in general. Implications: Reviews of these studies provide insights into how the Baby Boomers may negotiate caregiving for aging parents as well as the likelihood of family care they will receive when their own health declines in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-209
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Baby Boomer
  • Caregiving
  • Family
  • Intergenerational relationships
  • Parent
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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