The state of theory in elder family financial exploitation: A systematic review

Athena C.Y. Chan, Marlene S. Stum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Calls to address theoretical gaps in elder abuse as a field have been made over time. In this systematic review, the state of theory in elder family financial exploitation (EFFE), one of the most prevalent types of elder abuse, is examined. A synthesis of the scope and use of theories and constructs in 15 identified peer-reviewed EFFE empirical articles published between 1990 and 2019 confirms a field in its infancy. Findings identified theoretical gaps in almost half of the studies utilizing a grand or middle-range theory (8 of 15)—four focused on culture as a single concept, and three did not mention theory or constructs. Five interdisciplinary theoretical lenses have been used to examine EFFE, offering little depth and breadth in any one theory. To move EFFE forward theoretically, we discuss building on identified theories, integrating culture as a concept, and adding a focus on family systems using relevant family-focused theories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)492-509
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Family Theory and Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA Experiment Station, Project 1013288.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 National Council on Family Relations


  • elder abuse
  • elder family financial exploitation
  • family stress
  • family systems
  • theory review

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