Parents' Stories of Grandparenting Concerns in the Three-Generational Family: Generativity, Optimism, and Forgiveness


  • This research was supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada grant to Michael W. Pratt, Joan E. Norris, and Mary Louise Arnold. The authors thank Shannon Werner, R.T. de Forge, and Stephanie Kuiack, for their help with data collection and analysis, and the participants in these families for their ongoing interest and good humor.

concerning this article should be addressed to Michael W. Pratt, Department of Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3C5. E-mail:


ABSTRACT Adults' level of Eriksonian generativity in midlife has been shown to predict variations in parenting, but there has been less research on its relation to inter generational processes in the three-generational family. As part of a larger study, a sample of 35 Canadian mothers and fathers described a particular, salient child-rearing problem with grandparents when their first-born children were 8 years old. Descriptions were rated for severity of the problem, anger/irritation, optimism about solution, and forgiveness of the grandparent's behavior. Generativity data were collected by a standard questionnaire (the Loyola Generativity Scale of McAdams; McAdams & de St. Aubin, 1992). Results showed few gender differences, though mothers tended to be angrier than fathers with the grandparents. More mature parents were more forgiving than younger parents and saw problems as less serious, as predicted. Finally, parent level of generativity predicted maternal and paternal forgiveness of grandparent behaviors, as well as paternal, but not maternal, optimism about problem outcomes. Parental generativity may thus serve to encourage greater forgiveness and optimism among the generations of the family.