Friday, June 03, 2005

Abstract - Family Integrity in Later Life

My professor thought this one was great.

Author: King, D. A.& Wynne, L. C. (2004). The Emergence of “Family Integrity” in Later Life. Family Process; Mar2004, Vol. 43 Issue 1, p7.

Purpose: To introduce the concept of ‘‘family integrity’’ as a normal developmental challenge that is fundamental to the well being of elders and influenced heavily by family systems factors.

Subjects: Seven case studies of elderly adults of differing genders and ethnicity. No numbers given for other cited research.

Procedure: Comparison of case studies and other theories.

Results: Most theoretical accounts of adult development fail to address adequately the rich interplay between individual and family processes in later-life. An elder’s ability to achieve family integrity depends on three vital functions or competencies of the family system: (a) the transformation of relationships across time in a manner that is dynamic and responsive to the changing life cycle needs of family members; (b) the resolution or acceptance of past losses, disappointments, or conflicts with the dead as well as with the living; and (c) the creation of meaning by sharing stories, themes, and family rituals within and across generations. Characterized by increased wisdom and an ability to experience impartial concern for a wider social sphere that includes, but is not limited to, one’s extended family. Mutuality is attained only when prior basic relational functions. Attachment or caregiving, communication, and shared problem solving. Reflecting a type of intergenerational mutuality, filial maturity is attained when adult offspring grow in the caring support given to aging parents, and aging parents, in reciprocal fashion, become more able and willing to accept input and help from their children. The second major building block of family integrity is the ability of the elder and family to confront and ‘‘work through’’ losses or relational conflicts. The third component of family integrity involves the coherent integration of personal life stories and familial themes so that elders maintain a meaningful sense of their own place in a connected and continuous multigenerational family. This is accomplished through family story telling; the passing on of shared interests, life themes, and values; and involvement in shared family activities and rituals. Some ethnocultural groups may be more challenged than others to maintain meaningful connections within and across generations. As a clinically derived construct, the conceptualization of family integrity presented here is shaped by the authors’ culturally bound personal and professional experiences, including racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, age, and cohort biases.

Conclusions: It remains to be seen whether family integrity as described here involves primarily those who are related biologically and/or legally, or whether it includes ‘‘fictive kin’’ who are related emotionally. Further work is needed to develop a standardized measure of the construct and to test its validity across cultural and socioeconomic groups.

Remarks: I have to wonder why the authors of this article sought to publish their ideas before actually doing the research. It appears that all they did was find case studies that supported their theory and then plead for everyone else to do the real research. Though it sounds like they might have something, it calls into question their work ethic and ability to analyze research.

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