Dominant approaches to relational aggression among older adults tend to conceptualize the problem as a behavioral or interpersonal issue, and can inadvertently infantilize the phenomenon as ‘bullying.’ In this article we use a narrative approach and the conceptual lens of precarity to develop an in-depth, theoretically informed analysis of relational aggression between older women in low-income assisted living. The analysis of the narratives of tenants (and a manager) indicated that past life experiences and intersecting threats to power and identity shaped and could intensify tenants' interpretations of and reactions to others' actions and comments. Conflicts over a) unequal distributions of caring labor, b) control of social activities, and c) access to appreciation are complex and rational responses to precarious contextual conditions. Findings contribute empirically to the body of research on relational aggression among older adults, expanding this field through connecting it to critical gerontological conceptualizations of precarity. Preventing relational aggression requires increased public investment in formal social supports for older adults, challenging dominant discourses that privilege independence, and recognizing how the legacies of past disadvantage and contextual precarity (as opposed to mental illness or dementia) shape social interactions with and responses to others.

Aggression, Assisted living, Conflict, Precarity, Social interaction, Social support
Journal of Aging Studies
Department of Law and Legal Studies

Funk, L.M. (L. M.), Herron, R. (R.), Spencer, D, Dansereau, L. (L.), & Wrathall, M. (M.). (2019). More than “petty squabbles” – Developing a contextual understanding of conflict and aggression among older women in low-income assisted living. Journal of Aging Studies, 48, 1–8. doi:10.1016/j.jaging.2018.11.001