The Effect of Suffering on Generativity: Accounts of Elderly African American Men

Jefferson Center for Applied Research on Aging and Health, Thomas Jefferson University, 130 South 9th Street, Suite 515, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
The Journals of Gerontology Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences (Impact Factor: 3.21). 02/2009; 64(2):296-303. DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbn012
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT This article focuses on attitudes to and behaviors of generativity in 6 older African American (AA) men.
Data on generativity emerged from in-depth qualitative research that explored experiences of suffering in community-dwelling persons aged 80 years and over.
For these AA men, experiences of racism were salient in stories of suffering, and suffering was intricately related to attitudes and behaviors of generativity. We placed men's narratives, showing the link between suffering and generativity, in 3 categories: Generativity is rooted in (a) suffering and in empathy for suffering others, (b) experiences of redemption from suffering, and (c) religious belief that assuages suffering.
These AA men's generative behaviors were shaped by unique life experiences, including experiences of suffering. Bequeathing a legacy to succeeding generations was tied to suffering experiences, to the personal and communal identities that emerged from suffering, to the importance of inter- and intragenerational community, and to what men believed others needed from them.

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Available from: Helen K Black, Aug 27, 2014
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    • "The purpose of this paper was to explore the notion of ethical capital among low-SES adults. We know that legacy work is shaped by 'unique life experiences' rooted in 'personal and communal identities,' and shaped by the 'social context' where individuals develop, come of age, and grow old (Black and Rubinstein 2009: 296, 302). As an act of social exchange and a basic form of interaction, giving is at the root of all sociological functions, generating the requirement for the social emotion of gratitude, albeit, an essentially 'irredeemable commodity' (Simmel, in Wolff 1950). "
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    Sociology of Health & Illness 09/2010; 32(6):880-97. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-9566.2010.01246.x · 1.88 Impact Factor
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    • "Perceiving that a loved one has lost his/her will to live or faith in religion is likely to be very distressing for caregivers. Witnessing a partner lose the desire for generativity, the engagement in life and work activities that outlive the self, may also be disheartening for caregivers (Black & Rubenstein, 2009; Kotre, 1984). Surprisingly, there is no quantitative research on this topic. "
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    ABSTRACT: Examining the interpersonal effects of suffering in the context of family caregiving is an important step to a broader understanding of how exposure to suffering affects humans. In this review article, the authors first describe existing evidence that being exposed to the suffering of a care recipient (conceptualized as psychological distress, physical symptoms, and existential/spiritual distress) directly influences caregivers' emotional experiences. Drawing from past theory and research, the authors propose that caregivers experience similar, complementary, and/or defensive emotions in response to care recipient suffering through mechanisms such as cognitive empathy, mimicry, and conditioned learning, placing caregivers at risk for psychological and physical morbidity. The authors then describe how gender, relationship closeness, caregiving efficacy, and individual differences in emotion regulation moderate these processes. Finally, the authors provide directions for future research to deepen understanding of interpersonal phenomena among older adults, and they discuss implications for clinical interventions to alleviate the suffering of both caregivers and care recipients.
    Psychology and Aging 10/2009; 24(3):681-95. DOI:10.1037/a0016355 · 2.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Suffering is a powerful experience that can be difficult to articulate. Suffering differs from pain alone and includes an individual's awareness of a threat to self through death, loss of identity, or uncertaintly of the meaningfulness of one's life. In response to this threat, generative acts, especially creative expressions imbued with the self, may act as a means to repair the self in crisis. The case of Mr. A., an 85-year old man in good health, illustrates how various artistic pieces he created - a wooden dog and several poems -- helps him to restore a "fading" self. For Mr. A, the idea of "fading away" or becoming weaker and less useful until eventually disappearing is a major source of personal suffering. Through his art, he creates unique, interactive and tangible entities that can outlive his physical body and help him reclaim or repair threats to selfhood.
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