The Comforter: Providing Personal Advice and Emotional Support to Generations in the Family Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • ABSTRACTThis paper presents a novel conceptualization of emotional support in intergenerational families. In a stratified random sample of 458 adults in Hamilton, Ontario, over half the respondents said that there was currently, or had been in the past, a person in their family to whom other family members turned for emotional support and personal advice. In the paper, this person is referred to as the “comforter.” Many people also identified the person who provided emotional support prior to the present comforter. On the basis of the data, a “position” of family comforter is inferred. The paper investigates the social correlates of the position, the type of activities associated with being the family comforter, and the pattern of succession as different generations in the family move in and out of the position. The paper demonstrates the family provision of emotional support at the level of the extended family. It is shown that occupancy, activities and succession of the comforter position are patterned by gender. Further, the data suggest that people seek emotional support from a generational peer.

publication date

  • 1987