Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 157–178 | Cite as

“Nowadays it isn't easy to advise the young”: Grandmothers and granddaughters among Abaluyia of Kenya

  • Maria G. Cattell


Among Abaluyia of Kenya relative age (seniority) structures relationships hierarchically among co-wives, siblings and females of different generations. Ambiguous equality and affectionate informality in grandmother-granddaughter relationships mute the hierarchical implications of their different age and generation statuses. This facilitates grandmothers' educational roles although, as grandmothers say, “Nowadays it isn't easy to advise the young”. Increased physical, cognitive and experiential distances between these generations resulted from radical changes in the female lifecourse associated with modernization and delocalization. Nevertheless, reciprocal exchanges continue. Granddaughters are also intermediaries in exchanges between older women and their adult daughters. Some grandmothers are denied the companionship and assistance of granddaughters caught in the middle of mother-in-law/daughter-in-law conflicts. Many grandmothers assume parental responsibilities as they deal with the modern problem of daughters' premarital pregnancies. All in all, these intergenerational relationships reveal both cultural persistence and the effects of social change, and continue to have instrumental and expressive value for both grandmothers and granddaughters.

Key Words

intergenerational relationships age hierarchy women grandmothers Kenya Africa lifecourse 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria G. Cattell
    • 1
  1. 1.Kennett SquareUSA

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