Save the young - The elderly have lived their lives: Ageism in marriage and family therapy

David C. Ivey, Elizabeth Wieling, Steven M. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


The paucity of literature addressing mental health issues concerning geriatric populations represents the perpetuation of ageist practices and beliefs in the field of marriage and family therapy. The purpose of this study was to assess whether client age and clinical training relate to the evaluation of couples who present for conjoint therapy. Written vignettes describing two couples, one older and one younger, who report issues involving the absence of sexual intimacy, increased frequency of arguments, and increased use of alcohol were evaluated by practicing marriage and family therapists, therapists-in-training, and individuals with no clinical background. It was hypothesized that respondents' views would vary in connection with the age of the couple and with the three levels of participant training. Results indicate that client age and participant training are associated with perceptions of individual and couple functioning. Our findings suggest that the relational and mental health concerns experienced by elder couples are not perceived as seriously as are identical concerns experienced by younger couples. Contrary to our expectations the observed differences between views of the two age conditions did not significantly differ between levels of participant training. Training and experience in marriage and family therapy may not significantly mitigate vulnerability to age-discrepant views.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-175
Number of pages13
JournalFamily process
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000


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