In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Intergenerational Communication

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews of Intergenerational Communication
  • Media Use in Intergenerational Communication

Communication Intergenerational Communication
Amber K. Worthington, Jon F. Nussbaum, Mark J. Bergstrom
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0217


Intergenerational communication refers to interactions between individuals from different age cohorts or age groups. For example, many family interactions, including those between a parent and child or a grandparent and grandchild, can be classified as intergenerational communication. Intergenerational communication also occurs outside of the family. Indeed, any communicative interaction between a child and a middle-aged or older adult, a young adult and a middle-aged or older adult, and a middle-aged adult and an older adult is classified as intergenerational communication. Thus, many interactions that occur in daily life, including those at home, school, the workplace, and other social settings, involve intergenerational communication. Thus, intergenerational communication is ubiquitous; however, there is still a strong potential for miscommunication and otherwise unsatisfying intergenerational interactions as people from different age groups vary not only in their life experiences, but also in their communication goals, needs, and behaviors at different points in the lifespan. Likewise, age stereotypes and societal expectations, which may vary across cultures, can influence intergenerational communication. The discipline of intergenerational communication is thus interested in describing, explaining, and predicting these phenomena. This bibliography offers an overview of the field of intergenerational communication rather than an exhaustive listing of all of the research within this area. Thus, this bibliography first provides general overviews of intergenerational communication, followed by an examination of several important theories within intergenerational communication and a few select examples of empirical research guided by these frameworks. This bibliography then explores several important topics in intergenerational communication, including lifespan perspectives and media use. The research presented here is not limited to work produced by communication scholars, but rather includes research generated across a variety of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, and gerontology. Further, this bibliography includes research conducted cross-culturally with participants from all over the world, which speaks to the global nature of scholarship in intergenerational communication; however, only work available in English is included. Additionally, the articles are listed in chronological order by date, not alphabetical order, so as to logically follow the introduction, empirical testing, and refinement of each theory and subtopic within intergenerational communication.

General Overviews of Intergenerational Communication

This section provides important foundational works and general overviews of the field of intergenerational communication. This list includes the edited handbook Nussbaum and Coupland 2004; several books that explore issues in intergenerational communication, including Harwood 2007, Nelson 2004, and Williams and Nussbaum 2013; and the chapter Hummert 2012 that reviews research on and theoretical frameworks within intergenerational communication.

  • Harwood, J. 2007. Understanding communication and aging. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    This textbook examines many different facets of intergenerational communication, including attitudes about aging, interpersonal communication, social representations, mass communication, and contexts of communication in older adulthood.

  • Hummert, M. L. 2012. Challenges and opportunities for communication between age groups. In Handbook of intergroup communication. Edited by H. Giles, 223–249. New York: Routledge.

    This chapter focuses on intergenerational communication as intergroup communication by examining how communicative challenges between individuals from different age groups are similar and distinct from communicative challenges faced by other more stable group memberships, such as those represented by race and sex.

  • Nelson, T. D., ed. 2004. Ageism: Stereotyping and prejudice against older persons. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    This book includes work on age stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination by researchers in gerontology, psychology, sociology, and communication, including theoretical frameworks and empirical findings on the origins and effects of ageism, as well as suggestions for ways to reduce ageism.

  • Nussbaum, J. F., and J. Coupland, eds. 2004. Handbook of communication and aging research. New York: Routledge.

    This handbook synthesizes research on communication and aging in order to demonstrate that aging is not only an individual process with respect to aging physiologically and chronologically, but is also an interactive process with respect to social aging and how we behave as social actors toward others.

  • Williams, A., and J. F. Nussbaum. 2013. Intergenerational communication across the life span. New York: Routledge.

    This book provides a lifespan developmental view of communication and aging by suggesting that understanding human behavior across the lifespan is enhanced through the study of intergenerational communication.

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