Major theories are involved in the study of aging in families as biological, sociological, and family development approaches are looked at, in addition to ecological, historical-comparative, and feminist perspectives. Sub-categories within these theories include symbolic interaction theory, a dramaturgical approach, social exchange theory, structural functionalism, disengagement theory, conflict, continuity theory, activity theory, role theory, and cohort studies.

Conducting research on aging in the family involves a literature review and theoretical framework, a hypothesis (if appropriate), data gathering (including sampling), analysis of data, and discussion and conclusions. Theory and research go together like hand and glove. One cannot really have one without the other. An analogy could be the building of a bridge. Though built by workers and engineers, the “game plan” for the bridge is the work of mathematicians and physicists. The latter have designed the bridge, only to have the workers actually put it together. The same scenario applies to research on aging in families, as theory building and application go together, like a horse and carriage.