Are there life stories other than grandparenthood?

Reynolds, Jill (2011). Are there life stories other than grandparenthood? In: British Society of Gerontology 40th Annual Conference “Understanding and Promoting the Values of Older Age”, 5-7 Jul 2011, University of Plymouth.



How do people who are not parents talk about their lives, relationships and their experience of ageing? There is a widespread belief that relationships between adult children and their parents are crucial to the support of older people. There is nonetheless an increasing minority of older people without children (some 18% for women born in 1922 and projected to rise to around 23% for those born in 1972, Quinn et al., 1998). It is important to learn from the experience of those already in their period of later life.
This paper examines datasets from Qualidata studies (SN5237, SN6011) and data from interviews held between 1998 and 2002 with people aged over 65 years. It compares the narratives co-constructed by respondent and interviewer concerning children and grandchildren with the possibilities for a joint construction of stories from childless respondents. My analysis suggests that narrative structures for a life that progresses through stages associated with the heterosexual family are so deeply embedded in the understanding of both interviewer and respondent, that while the beginnings of other kinds of story can be identified, their telling is often inhibited.
Quinn, M., Ruddock, V. and Wood, R. (1998) ‘Birth Statistics: Recent trends in England and Wales’, Population Trends, 94, pp.12–18.

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