Encyclopedia of Gerontology and Population Aging

Living Edition
| Editors: Danan Gu, Matthew E. Dupre

Beanpole Family Structure

  • Megan GilliganEmail author
  • Luke Huber
  • Leslie A. Winters
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69892-2_311-1



The term “beanpole family” was introduced by Vern L. Bengtson in the 1990s to describe “a family structure in which the shape is long and thin, with more family generations alive but with fewer members in each generation” (Bengtson 2001, p. 5).


Since Parsons’s (1943) work depicting a constrained view of the nuclear family (i.e., married couples raising young children), many scholars have moved on to embrace a more comprehensive picture of family relationships. In contrast to Parson’s emphasis on the nuclear family, empirical research has demonstrated that intergenerational ties typically endure throughout the life course. Bengtson introduced the term “beanpole families” to highlight the prevalence and importance of ties between multiple generations of family members (e.g., parents, adult children, grandparents, and grandchildren). Bengtson argued that these beanpole families would take on increasing...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Megan Gilligan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Luke Huber
    • 1
  • Leslie A. Winters
    • 1
  1. 1.Human Development and Family StudiesIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Naomi J. Spence
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology - Lehman CollegeCity University of New YorkBronxUSA