/ Book Reviews

Hareven, Tamara K. (Ed.) 1996. Aging and Generational Relations: Life Course and Cross-Cultural Perspectives. New York: Aldine De Gruyter. ISBN 00202-30560-0. 300pp.

Aging and Generational Relations is an edited collection of essays on the support that older people receive from their kin and adult children. The chapters have been excerpted from a larger volume of work which resulted from the International Conference on Aging and Generational Relations Over the Life Course (1991). This paperback edition includes essays that examine contemporary conditions in the United States and Europe (Section 1) and East Asia (Section II). The selected articles are intended to assist readers in understanding the changing nature of intergenerational relationships in ways that may inform future-oriented practical and policy-related decisions.

The twelve articles in this edition address five themes: the ways in which life course antecedents influence later intergenerational supports, the influence of early life decisions and transitions on later transitions of the individual and family, the assistance of children to aging parents and assistance from other kin, societal and institutional contexts that may affect generational assistance, and the effects of social changes on these relationships. This volume follows a life course perspective which requires understanding the developmental framework within historical context, the ways in which "problems, needs, and patterns of adaptation were shaped by... earlier life experiences and by the historical conditions...".

The readings do not comprehensively develop the five themes, but rather visit each from diverse perspectives. For example, assistance to aging parents is discussed through cohort comparisons from two U.S. communities, and through a study done in 1990 in southwest Sri Lanka. The final chapter explores the question, "What will the future relationship be between older parents and their adult offspring?" with a discussion of emerging forms of kinship bonds and their possible implications for intergenerational relationships.

As a collection, the essays point to the need to understand within a historical and cultural context the starting points of the relationships examined, the meanings attached to these relationships, and the differences that exist within — not just among — societies. This collection may be useful as ancillary reading in graduate level courses on adulthood and aging, or family relations.

June Pierce Youatt
Family and Child Ecology
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan 48824

Horsely, Gloria C. (1997) The In-law Survival Guide: How to Prevent — and Solve — In-law Problems. New York: Wiley. (276 pages, $6.99)

Gloria Call Horsely is a marital and family therapist who has given substantial thought to the extended family. In this small "self help" book, she is trying to help various family members anticipate, recognize, and deal with problems resulting from their manifold roles. Diverse selfassessment surveys and work sheets help with this. Perhaps the best use of this book is prophylactic, helping the newly married navigate the extended family. The book is less useful once in-law problems have developed. To paraphrase Horsely's somewhat universal advice: "Think about your expectations and needs, then talk about them."

There are strengths in this book. It alerts the lay person to issues of family structure, and specifically to multiple, overlapping, and often conflicting roles held by one or more individuals. It describes conscious and unconscious expectations and attendant motives and fears. It points out how all of these are a function of the family life cycle — and highlights the problematic nature of the transitions between one stage and another.

This little book also has its problems. Although the lay reader may find that it does no harm and may do some good, family professionals may feel less benign. The text often is judgmental, gender-biased, and full of simple advice. Insightful tidbits are hidden among homilies and superficial observations. (Patience and faith are required to ferret out the useful parts.) The author relies heavily on her own clinical experience and major marital and family therapy theorists instead of the empirical family studies literature. The various surveys and work sheets, while helpful (and even entertaining), are "home grown" and are based on their face validity to the author. Finally, rather than offering a strengths-based approach to in-law relationships, this text reinforces negative constructions.

Robert E. Lee
Family and Child Ecology
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan 48824

Pipher, Mary (1999). Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of our Elders. New York: Riverhead Books, Penguin Putnam. ISBN 1-57322-129-5. 328 pp.

In this book, psychologist Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia, a widely read book about social, cultural and psychological matters surrounding teenage girls, turns her attention to relationships between older generations and their children. She uses the metaphor of traveling to a new country to point out broad differences in values, attributes, world views and temperament that can exist between old people and younger generations. One of her aims is to bridge the gap between the language of science and that of human experience. She does this by using anecdotes based on her counseling practice and personal experience to illustrate social science concepts such as collective consciousness, cultural diversity and the difference between deep and surface structures. She presents an analogy between aging and post-traumatic stress disorder. The anecdotes, while perhaps too numerous, provide realistic situations with which many will identify and can help readers realize that their families' problems and behavior are similar to those of others.

Pipher points out that child rearing and the concept of the perfect child changed between the generations. In the mid 1920s, the Lynd's study of Middletown showed that most parents wanted obedience and conformity in their children. Fifty years later, autonomy and independence were more highly valued. Differences in openness, expressing feelings, talking about sex, gender roles, and the meaning of dependency are other differences between the generations. Pipher does not present easy solutions for helping navigate the sometimes bumpy terrain between the generations, but her insights can be useful for understanding ourselves and each other. She offers the practical advice that we learn to compromise, tolerate imperfections (in ourselves and others), try to seek a balance and stay the course. The chapter on grandparents and grandchildren will echo the experiences and enjoyment of many readers.

Pipher intersperses her examples, interpretation and theoretical discussion with poetry and quotations, adding to the readability and accessibility of the book to a wide range of readers. The book is not a theoretical text, and much of the information on aging will not be new to those who have done reading on the subject. It will be useful, however, as a supplementary reading for academic courses; for counselors, adult education and book club discussions; as well as for general readers in older and younger generations.

Margaret M. Bubolz
Emeritus, Family and Child Ecology
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan 48824

Pearl Ketover Prilik. (1998). Becoming an Adult Stepchild: Adjusting to a Parent's New Marriage. Washington, DC. American Psychiatric Press. ISBN 0-88048-870-0.

This is light reading, almost a primer, about a complex topic. Prilik, a psychotherapist in private practice, takes a cursory look at the issues that 20 million adult stepchildren in the U.S. may face when adjusting to a parent's new marriage. In section 1, she attempts to help readers make sense of why their parent might decide to marry later in life, unresolved childhood baggage that often emerges, and why adult stepchildren may experience unexpected dislike of a parent's spouse or even feel discarded when their role in their parent's life no longer seems as important. There is advice about what part adult children can play in the actual wedding and also about a more critical issue of what to do when a parent is no longer conceived a competent decision maker but is headed toward the altar anyway.

Section II is directed toward making the best of things, i.e., thinking about one's "ideal adult self" and acting like it, once the wedding has taken place. Included are tips for relating well to the new stepparent and stepsiblings and thoughts about the grandparenting role that the stepparent may play. One of the most valuable chapters in this section is the author's discussion of how family rituals, traditions, and other celebrations may undergo change as a result of the marriage. Chapter nine gets at what is often the real heart of the conflict that goes on in families when an adult's parent decides to remarry, particularly when there are assets involved, of who gets the family heirlooms and resources if something should happen to the biological parent — and what are the legal issues involved?

Though she identifies a number of common issues, Prilik's treatment of them tends to be surfacy. For example, chapter six, which centers on a parent's competence to decide to marry, is a brief four pages long, hardly a chapter. Parent's sexuality, which she notes can "unleash some uncomfortable thoughts" is afforded only two sentences. She offsets this problem somewhat with a number of provocative questions that preface each chapter and adds a variety of brief narratives illustrating adult stepchildren's real-life related experiences. These may constitute the real strength of the text, which could perhaps be used most effectively as a study guide for groups of adults or individuals who are experiencing remarriage of their parents and want to work through some of these issues. An additional weakness of the book is the lack of any theory or research base, and it seems clear that Prilik draws largely from a middle- to upper-class, well educated clinical population in her treatment of the subject. Moreover, her scope of the players involved in these challenging family transitions is limited to the adult stepchild, new stepparent, and biological parent. Missing in the picture is any mention of the other biological parent, who may still be alive and kicking! What kinds of loyalty binds and other demands are placed on the adult stepchild when a biological parent has been displaced by the new stepparent and continues to be resentful about it?

The straightforward approach of the author borders occasionally on bossiness and a "Miss Manners' tone of expert to nonexpert advice-giving ("Under no circumstances should you...." "If you like, you may...." "It is acceptable...."). Too, the "just-act-like-an-adult-and-everything will-be-all-right" approach to problem-solving may not reflect real life exactly. Nevertheless, just knowing that other adults whose parents are remarrying also share a wide range of emotional reactions ambiguity, relief, disappointment, jealousy, and feelings of disruption and loss — can make this a worthwhile investment. In her examination of the underlying conflicts and tensions that result when parents of adult children decide to marry, Prilik has added a dimension not often considered in the current, heady reshaping of American families.

Anne K. Soderman
Family and Child Ecology
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan 48824

The Editor Recommends:

Rosemary Blieszner & V.H. Bedford (Eds.) Aging and the Family (1996). Westport, CT: Praeger.

Blieszner and Bedford have compiled a comprehensive book of readings, including articles by many of the major researchers and scholars in the field. It covers a broad spectrum of research and theory-based material related to the family and aging, ranging from family support over the life cycle to intergenerational relationships in various family structures, ethnic and cultural groups, and grandparenthood. Attention is given to demographic and other societal and family changes that affect relationships between the generations. The book will be useful for advanced undergraduate and graduate courses and as a resource for scholars and practitioners. Margaret M. Bubolz