Contrary to the impression that grandmothers are delighted to help their grown daughters and care for their grandchildren, a study of multi-generational families indicates that many older women resent the frequent impositions of the younger generations on their time and  energy.

“Young women with children are under a lot of pressure these days, and they expect their mothers to help them pick up the pieces,” noted Dr. Bertram J. Cohler, a behavioral scientist at the University of Chicago. “This is often the strongest source of resentment on the part of Grandmother, who has finished with child-caring and now has her own life to live…

Grandmothers like to see their children and grandchildren, but in their own time.” Dr. Cohler is the director of a study, supported by the National Institute of Aging, of 150 working-class families that live in a  Midwestern suburb. He and a collaborator, Dr. Henry U. Grunebaum of Harvard Medical School, have already completed an intensive investigation of four such families in New England, summarizing their findings in a book, Mothers, Grandmothers and Daughters, published recently by Wiley-Interscience for professional audiences.

Generation Gap


Dr. Cohler tells of a middle-aged Boston woman who works as a seamstress all week and for her church on Sundays. Every Saturday (her only day off) her daughter and family visit, expecting Mother to make lunch, shop and visit. “That’s not how she wants to grow old,” said Dr. Cohler, who was told by the older woman: “My daughter  would never speak to me if she knew how mad I get.”

In all the four New England families studied, the older women resented the numerous phone calls and visits from their grown daughters, who often turned to their mothers for advice, physical resources, affection and companionship as well as baby-sitting  services. “American society keeps piling on the burdens for older people, particularly those in their 50’s and 60’s,” Dr. Cohler said in an interview here. “They are still working and taking care of their grown children and maybe also their aged parents. Sometimes life gets to be too much. That’s one reason many of them move far away, to Florida  or Sun City (Arizona).

Older people need more space and time to attend to their own affairs and friends. Young people don’t understand this, and that’s part of what creates tension between generations.” He has found that, contrary to what the younger generations may think, older people have an enormous amount to do.

“More than half of working-class grandmothers still work, and if they’re retired they have activities in the community that keep them occupied,” he said. “Each generation has got to appreciate the unique needs of the other,” Dr. Cohler went on. “The younger generation has to realize that grandparents have busy, active lives and that they need privacy and more space for themselves. Moreover, the older generation has to realize that continuing to be part of the family is important to the younger generation and that they need help and support.”


A. What do the following refer to?
1. ‘who* (line 28):
2. ‘They’ (line 32): 3. ‘this1 (line 37):
4. ‘that’ (line 41):
5. ‘the other’ (line 42): the other
6. ‘they* (line 47):
B. Mark the statements as True (T) or False (F).
1. Young women want their mothers to help them solve their problems.
2. Grandmothers want their children and grandchildren to visit them as often
as possible.
3. Some grandparents move far away to have more time for themselves.
4. One of the women Dr. Cohler spoke to complained about her daughter.
1. Who finances Dr. Cohler’s study?
2. What kind of families did Dr. Cohler investigate?
3. What do younger people have to realize?

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