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16 S AC S TAT E M AGA Z I N E | Fa l l 2 015 "One of the dangers is that when relationships end, there aren't enough structures and rituals in place for how to move positively forward, so the demise of a relationship is informed by adversarial and legal struggle—affecting kids in particular," says Nylund. To him, putting kids' needs first is key to maintaining familiar bonds during the divorce process, which can help bring forth a collaborative way of ending a relationship. "Some of our ideas on loss and grief are useful, but also problematic," he says. "To me, when you lose a loved one through death, your relationship with that person still continues in a different way. Same with divorce—things don't end, the relationship just changes." Interestingly enough, the divorce rate in America has declined to just above 40 percent for first-time marriages, partly due to the increase of college-educated women. "One of the biggest 'revolutions' in the American family is women's increasing education level, increasing presence in the paid labor force and their increasing levels of independence," Berg says. The traditional "calculus" of the 1950s, where the income-dependent wife stayed home to care for the children, has changed dramatically. "A big part of that is female access to higher education." Living longer, together Changes in the caregiver dynamic also extend to extended family. With the largest group of caregivers in America being family members, adults are actively caring for their own children, their parents and even their grandparents. "There is certainly an economic and social component to grandparents' involvement in their grandchildren's lives," says gerontology professor Donna Jensen. "If I'm a single parent and I can't afford daycare, I'm going to first look to my family members for caregiving." More than 2.5 million grandparents are raising grandkids in the U.S., and grandparents residing with grandchildren are up by a third from the previous generation, with about 8 million children living with a grandparent. Sometimes the grandparents find themselves in a direct parenting role for grandchildren in need of a stable environment. "Because of the rise of awareness on domestic violence, women are now leaving abusive relationships," says Nylund. "Often, grandparents get involved as the primary custodial parent because one of the biological custodial parents is struggling with drugs or has perpetrated violence." At the same time, more elderly adults in the U.S. are engaged in their own lives and communities—or are still in the workforce—than ever before. Jensen in part attributes these changes to our evolving perspective on aging now versus 25 years ago. "About 60-65 years old used to be the benchmark for older adulthood," she says. "But today, because of the number of people aging—and the way that we're aging—we don't perceive that age as 'old' anymore." "Because people are living healthier, longer lives, we have grandparents and older adults who just don't have time to be caregivers. They may even have more active lives than their children and grandchildren," she says. The more things change… The lesson: there is more than one way to be a family and that won't change any time soon. "Human beings are amazingly adaptable creatures, which manifests in how families have changed for the better," says Moylan. Percentage of children living in the home of a grandparent Percentage of adults actively caring for an elder adult