The experience of living in a three-generation household after an adult daughter's divorce
AuthorPeterson, Donna Jean
AdvisorChristensen, Donna Hendrickson
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis study utilized a phenomenological approach to describe the experience of living in a three-generation household after an adult daughter's divorce for members of each generation--divorcing mothers, grandparents, and grandchildren. Topics addressed included: characterizations of divorcing mother-parent relationships and grandparent-grandchild relationships, redefinition of relationship boundaries, and positives and negatives associated with this living arrangement. Divorcing custodial mothers in three-generation households were recruited from a mandated parent education program for divorcing parents in southeastern Arizona. At least one member from each generation in the household participated. Interviews were conducted with 25 individuals in eight families (eight divorcing mothers, nine grandparents, eight grandchildren). Data analysis followed Giorgi's (1985) technique. Results suggested that the redefinition of relationship roles and boundaries (intimacy issues) and the resolution of power issues led to positive relationships and experiences. In the one family doing poorly, numerous instances illustrated the divorcing mother's lack of power within the household. The divorcing mother-parent relationship boundaries had become more hierarchical since coresiding, and the grandparents had overstepped the boundary between "parent" and "grandparent." The resulting tension caused stress for all generations. In the four families who fell between doing poorly and well, the renegotiation of intimacy boundaries had positive effects in terms of improved relationships since coresiding. Power boundaries were still being renegotiated. Again, divorcing mother-parent relationships had hierarchical boundaries, and grandparents had crossed the line between parenting and grandparenting. However, in these families, this may have been due to the divorcing mothers' negative reactions to their separations. In such situations, having grandparents temporarily take on parenting functions for some period of time may be beneficial. These grandparents did express a desire to return to less hierarchical relationships and become more of a "grandparent" than "parent." In the three families doing well, intimacy boundaries did not require renegotiation because the relationships had always been close and supportive. These families were the only ones to describe the value of extended families and family activities. When power issues did arise, family members handled them quickly. Although there was some grandparental. interference in discipline, these grandparents were viewed as "stereotypical" grandparents.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Family and Consumer Resources