Good Example Of Term Paper On Grandparenthood Is South Asia And The United States
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In the twenty-first century, grandparenthood is at the heart of the contemporary family, as well as the changes in the society. The profound changes experienced in the past 50 years have modified the manner in which several families organize to rear their children. Traditionally, grandparents served as short-term caregivers to their grandchildren, socializing agents and support sources. Nevertheless, half-century grandparents have increasingly drifted from their traditional roles as grandparents in the past and are now assuming the roles that are supposed to be taken up by the parents of the children. This new development of grandparenthood is attributed to the diversification in family forms due to heightened rates of divorce and the increment in single-parenthood. Given this, parents have progressively relied on their extended family for support as pertaining to the caregiving of their children. The economic situation that existed in the past varies widely with what is being encountered in the modern world. The modern economic stagnation is demonstrated by the slumping real wages and the general diminution of jobs that pay a sustainable wage besides providing benefits. Moreover, the government benefits for the working and poor single mothers have been downsized (Baker, Silverstein and Putney, 2008). Compounding all these novel developments, it is unmistakable that parents’ ability to effectively rare their children is bound, and hence, the urgent need for the extended family to step in and help in providing care for these children. Grandparents come forth as the prime guardians of straitened families, especially when the middle generation is incompetent in raising their children. Regardless of the step-up in grandparenthood, the issue is overlooked by the government and the society alike (Glaser, 2010). It is overly important to comprehend the various dimensions of Grandparenthood to appreciate the efforts put forward by grandparents. Grandparenthood emerges as universal phenomenon, but some substantial differences exist across cultures. In this discussion, the theoretical perspective of grandparenthood will be delineated, as well as a keen analysis of the works of researchers on the issue of grandparents providing care for grandchildren as it develops in the United States and South Asia.
The theoretical perspective of grandparenthood is better understood through the symbolic interactionism theory and the role theory. The symbolic interactionism theory and the role theory will be addressed separately.
The concept of symbolic interactionism theory was coined by George Herbert Mead (1863-1931). Mead suggests that interactions between people are facilitated through the use of symbols, which have the ability to disseminate the meaning of such interactions. Nonetheless, Mead affirms that effective communication is dependent on whether the meanings of the symbols are universal, and this is achieved through a process of ‘role-taking’. The process entails different people assuming the roles of others within the interaction circle. The essence of the process is to enable people build up the concept of self, a requisite for the process of becoming a human being, which is attained through having individuals observe themselves from a point of view of others. As such, Mead suggests two facets of the self, the ‘me’, and the ‘I’. Whereas the ‘me’ involves an individual’s definition of herself or himself within a particular social role, the ‘I’ entails an individual’s self-concept as developed from the response from others and the personal interpretation of those responses. Mead conceives that the societal culture has a significant impact in determining the correctness of a particular behavior in relation to a specific social role. It means that individuals are compelled to act in ways that are consistent with their personal self-concept, as well as the anticipated behavior of a given social role. More specifically, Mead believes that social institutions, such as family, have specific social roles tied to them such as a grandparent or parent. However, Mead affirms that these social roles are not fixed since they undergo constant alteration as people interact (Backhouse, 2009). It means that it is possible to behave contrary to the expectations of a given social role, and therefore, novel behaviors have to be innovated. For instance, grandparents are modifying the behavior associated with their traditional role so as to accommodate the fresh role of taking care of their grandchildren.
On the other hand, role theory deals with the behavioral devices by individuals within a well-defined social system. In a stable social system, different people are engaged in various social roles. Roles are defined as “shared, normative expectations that prescribe and explain these behaviors” (Backhouse, 2009, p. 65). It is presumed that the individuals in a society continuously learn the norms, and in this way, they are expected to conform to the norms. Besides, individuals are expected to encourage others to follow the customs as well. In essence, role expectations influence the manner in which people behave. Individuals constantly communicate the behavioral expectations and the pressure to conform is unfathomed, as elucidated by the role theory. Apparently, a slight change in the expectations would be disastrous (Muller and Litwin, 2011). For instance, grandparents, being expected to take care of their grandchildren rather than sticking to their traditional role of being support agents presents a change in expectations and brings forth colossal difficulties.
The symbolic interactionism theory and role theory lay the foundation of understanding individuality concept. Individuality is conceived as the distinct components of self as pertaining to the different roles occupied by individuals in the society. As Brewer (2009) puts it, role characteristics represent an individual’s “imaginative view of himself as he likes to think of himself being and acting as an occupant of that position” (p. 19). The two theories acknowledge the existence of multiple role characteristics due to the stupendous relationships that exist in the society. In fact, symbolic interactionism theory and role theory suggest that role characteristics have a great impact on social behavior, and this is accounted for through the notion of commitment and self-salience. Given the multitude of role characteristics, they are ranked based on a hierarchy of salience (Muller and Litwin, 2011). As such, the role of individuality on the acme of the hierarchy greatly influences on behavioral decisions of an individual. On the other hand, the symbolic interactionism theory and role theory propose two kinds of commitment: interactional commitment and affective commitment. Interactional commitment entails the magnitude of roles affiliated to a specific uniqueness, whereas the affective commitment entails the grandness of the relationships affiliated to the individuality. There is a positive relationship between these two forms of commitment and self-salience in the strong sense that commitment translates to a more prominent self-salience. All in all, the theory suggests that these characteristics have to reinforce one another; otherwise, conflicts are set to spring up. People develop stress when they are hampered from affirming their characteristics. Moreover, individuals are forced to regard one’s individuality as less important than the other when they are faced with opposing role characteristics (Backhouse, 2009). As such, a revolution in the distinctiveness standards takes place, and individual re-identify themselves. For instance, grandparents re-identify themselves as caregivers for grandchildren.
Hefty research has been conducted on the issue of grandparenthood across the globe. However, the disparity between the motive and consequences of parenthood in South Asia and the United States is appalling. According to Chadha (2013) in his article titled ‘Intergenerational Relationships: An Indian Perspective’, grandparenthood has been an integral to the Indian culture. Chandra asserts that the traditional ideal of an Indian family constituted at least three living generations living together. Grandparents, especially the grandmother, have served as babysitters and storytellers to their grandchildren. Even long after globalization and modernization has seen drastic changes in social institutions, such as families, Indian families still uphold the joint family structure. The role characteristic of grandparents in the Indian families has been to instill moral aspects to the grandchildren through storytelling over and above the babysitting. It is widely known in India that once a person become a grandparent, providing care to a grandchild becomes a matter of priority. In fact, grandparents are able to find meaning in life through providing care for their grandchildren since they serve as outlets of a worrywart. Children have also developed a strong relationship with their grandparents since they can express themselves without having to worry about scolding or judgment. As such Grandparenting is pertinent to the culture of India. In the light of the symbolic interactionism theory and role theory, the role characteristics of grandparenthood in India reinforce each other in the sense that through babysitting and telling stories, the moral development of a grandchild is enhanced. Furthermore, since this has been a traditional practice, the grandparents are not stressed since they are affirming their role characteristics.
Similarly, Hermalin et al. (2008) endorses the sentiments of Chandra in the article ‘The Emerging Role of Grandparents in Asia’; however, their analysis is not limited to India alone, but the South Asia region in general. Hermalin et al. maintain that the traditional role characteristics of grandparenthood of caregiving to grandchildren are shaped by the fact that a great deal of the grandparents in South Asia “have rural, agricultural backgrounds, experienced high fertility and live in extended households” (p.2). Additionally, the elderly have a trivial education, especially the discrimination of women with regards to the labor force and education alike. Women in South Asia have no place outside family farms and businesses. Intrinsically, grandparents in South Asia have been increasingly involved in providing care for their grandchildren because they are less likely to be inducted into the labor force due to the lack of education. The catch is that the high fertility of the women in South Asia translates to a sizable number of grandchildren. Therefore, grandparents align their behavior with the role characteristics of caregiving to the grandchildren and give this role an ultimate priority given the condition of life in South Asia. Hermalin et al. sentiments on the issue of grandparenthood in South Asia conform to the symbolic interactionism theory and role theory in the sense that grandparents relish their roles provided that they identify with them.
Lie (2010), in her article “Across the Oceans: Childcare and Grandparenting in UK, Chinese and Bangladeshi Households” acknowledges the modern devotion of South Asian women to get an education to fit in the labor force. Lie points out the new development among South Asian women to have fewer children so as to have ample time of being proactive economically. Besides, the fewer children will be less problematic for grandparents to rear. Childcare has not been an issue for the South Asian women since the elderly citizens identify with the role of giving care to their grandchildren. Lie affirms that South Asian women have had an easy time engaging themselves in educational programs and the labor force because their parents are willing and delighted in providing care for their children. It is because grandparenthood in the South Asia comes down to providing care grandchildren and the individuality salience and commitment accorded to this role is great. Lie’s research findings certify the symbolic interactionism theory and role theory in that South Asian grandparents’ role characteristics of providing care is affirmed when they are burdened with the responsibility of taking care of the children of their daughters as they work or study.
Conversely, Mehta and Thang (2011), in their article titled ‘Introduction: Grandparenthood in Asia’ highlight the traditional role individuality of grandparents in the U.S. Whereas in South Asia and India, the role individuality of grandparents, involve caregiving and storytelling to grandchildren, the situation is different in the U.S. Traditionally, grandparents served as symbol of continuity of a generation and stability of families. Moreover, grandparents served as historian, transmitters of values, nurtures, arbitrators for parents, role models and mentors for the family. The magnitude of the role characteristics for the traditional grandparent in the USA cannot be overemphasized. It is in line with the symbolic interactionism theory and role theory that recognize the possibility of multiple role characteristics that stem from the scores of relationships in society. Given this, grandparents in the USA align their behavior with the societal expectations. Grandparents in the traditional family setting in the USA occasionally had contact with their grandchildren, especially during special occasions and holidays. The conflict encountered in the modern grandparenthood, where grandparents serve the role of parents to their grandchildren, is attributed to the hampering of grandparents to conform to their role characteristics.
The Population Reference Bureau (PRB) (2011) manifests the detrimental consequences of the changing expectations of grandparenthood in the USA in the article ‘Today’s research on Aging’. PRB maintains that the novel expectations of the USA grandparents to serve as care providers to their grandchildren have brought about substantial stressors to the grandparents. First, the grandparents experience relationship strains with the birth parents of the children. It is demonstrated when the grandparents lack the financial resources, and hence, require the parents to support their children. It is manifested in the fact that the trivial financial resources the grandparents have been exhausted in providing care for grandchildren. In fact, 36 percent of the grandparents aged above 60 years and still caring for their grandchildren were in the labor force as of 2010 so that they can make ends meet, at the expense of their deteriorating health due to aging. Given this, PRB conceived that grandparents burdened with the responsibility of raising their grandchildren have a greater degree of health problems, such as depression, as compared to those grandparents without such responsibilities. This assertion is in line with the symbolic interactionism theory and role theory, in the sense that the parents are expected to take up roles that are not part of their role characteristics. The consequence of the shifting in expectations will mean that the grandparents will assign little emphasis to their traditional roles as grandparents.
In conclusion, there is an unmistakable transition in the grandparenthood. However, the symbolic interactionism theory and role theory suggest that grandparents are content in providing care for their grandchildren, provided it is pertinent to their role distinctiveness. Chadha and Hermalin et al. hold this view in their arguments in the case of India and South Asia respectively. Their research shows that the traditional role characteristics of grandparenthood conforms to the modern expectations, and hence, the lack of any conflict in grand parenting in South Asia as elucidated by Lie. On the contrary, Mehta and Thang hash out that the USA’s traditional; role characteristics of grandparenthood differ from the modern expectations. Whereas, grandparents traditionally presented continuity of a family, the modern USA society expects grandparents to give care to grandchildren. These grandparents have become stressed as illuminated by PRB since they are expected to depart from their role characteristics. Unless the USA society wants the grandparents to give up their traditional roles as support sources, it is very important for parents to take care of their children instead of burdening the elderly with their ‘assigned’ roles.
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