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The Relational Gaze on a Changing Society


Edited By Paolo Terenzi and Elisabetta Carrà

Relational sociology is coming increasingly to the fore on the international academic stage. As it invariably happens in such circumstances, when a new paradigm attracts a growing number of scholars, researchers and practitioners, it is almost inevitably interpreted and identified in many different ways. This book aims to highlight the specific nature of relational sociology, disseminates knowledge about the relational approach which has been developed in Italy and in Europe starting from the work of Pierpaolo Donati, and confronts this approach with issues which are currently much debated in social theory, social research and social work. The authors try to consolidate the directions taken in the research field in order to distinguish relational sociology from other approaches which are not relational, or are only so to a certain degree.

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A Multigenerational Point of View: The Contribution of Relational Sociology


1 Introduction

Family and social intergenerational relationships have experienced a major morphogenetic change following the significant socio-demographic transformations brought about by the mechanisms of natural variations in population (birth and death rates). These transformations have led to the formation of smaller families – i.e. having fewer family members – which are characterized by the simultaneous presence of more than one generation – multigenerational families, made up of three or more generations, are the so-called beanpole families (Dykstra 2010) – and have relatively few horizontal (intragenerational) relationships and numerous vertical (intergenerational) relationships (Saraceno, 2008).

We aim to examine this morphogenesis from a generational standpoint (Boccacin 2005), whose heuristic significance is represented by a (both structural and cultural) multidimensionality of the relationships between generations and, in particular, of the symbolic meaning generated through them and transmitted within the family and society.

This paper also focuses on solidarity between generations by discussing the well-known Bengtson’s and Roberts’ paradigm (1991), which was later revisited from a relational perspective by Silverstein and Bengtson (1997). Elements of risk in intergenerational relationships that are not being considered in most postmodern analyses and reflections will also be emphasized. Conversely, relationships between generations are not immune from ambivalence (Lüscher 2011) and can therefore be either generative or degenerative (thus generating relational goods or evils).

Results from recent surveys conducted by our research team can eloquently exemplify the concepts presented in this chapter.

2 The intergenerational ties that change and revolutionize...

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