The generativity crisis and the "scold war": What about those parents?

Mary McCaslin, Helen Infanti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The role of parent is a societal construction that is influenced by an array of messages from cultural sources as diverse as formal social policy documents of the U.S. government and the everydayness of popular media. This article examines the multiple messages about parents and what it means to be an effective parent as evidenced in educational policy documents, popular women's magazines, academic research, and educational practice. One common theme emerges: Too many parents are either incompetent or unwilling to parent effectively, defined by a child's compliance with civil authority and success in school, Erikson's (1950/1963) psychosocial theory of life-span development guides the analysis of these messages and their relation to parent identity. Erikson's notion of "generativity crisis," the individual's struggle between self-indulgence and care for another, is a useful metaphor for understanding society's role in caring for the next generation. Societal messages that parents are inadequate are self-fulfilling and self-defeating. Parents are more important as members of a generativity alliance for the betterment of children than they are as scapegoats for societal stagnation. Cultural generativity does not bypass, scold, or blame parents; it includes supporting parents and their children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-296
Number of pages22
JournalTeachers College Record
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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