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Keywords:

  • agency;
  • ambivalence;
  • family ties;
  • gender;
  • intergenerational relations;
  • social structure

We develop the concept of ambivalence as structurally created contradictions that are made manifest in interaction. We discuss how our reconceptualization enhances the relevance of ambivalence to sociological analyses of family ties. Ambivalence is a particularly useful concept when imbedded in a theoretical framework that views social structure as structured social relations, and individuals as actors who exercise agency as they negotiate relationships within the constraints of social structure. The strengths of conceptualizing ambivalence within this framework are illustrated with examples of caring for older family members and of balancing paid work and family responsibilities.