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Solidarity between Parents and their Adult Children in Europe

Solidarity between Parents and their Adult Children in Europe

Tineke Fokkema
Susan ter Bekke
Pearl A. Dykstra
Series: NiDi Report
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 136
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  • Book Info
    Solidarity between Parents and their Adult Children in Europe
    Book Description:

    At present, our knowledge of the current state of solidarity between parents and their adult children in Europe is limited. Insight into contemporary intergenerational solidarity is not only important for the well-being of individuals but is also of great interest to policy makers. Patterns of intergenerational solidarity are not only affected by social policies and services but also reveal a number of important social policy issues and dilemmas. Will encouraging labour force participation among women and older workers mean they have less time to care for their dependents? Should formal care services be further expanded to relieve the burden faced by family members with the risk that they start to replace informal care?This report aims to contribute to this insight by providing a more differentiated picture of the strength, nature and direction of solidarity between parents and their adult children, its variation among European countries and its determinants. Our findings indicate that parent-child ties are quite strong. The majority of Europeans aged 50 and over live in close proximity and are in frequent contact with at least one of the children. Moreover, strong family care obligations still exist and a substantial amount of support is being exchanged between parents and their non-co resident children.Interesting differences, however, emerge between individuals and countries. While fathers are more inclined to assist their children financially, mothers have more frequent contact and exchange more help in kind with their children. Being religious and having a large family have a positive impact on several dimensions of intergenerational solidarity. Parental divorce and a better socioeconomic position of parents and children, on the other hand, lead to a weakening of parent-child ties in many respects. Contrary to common belief, employed children show solidarity with their parents as much as those without a paid job. Differences in the nature of intergenerational solidarity between the European countries tend to follow the general division into an individualistic north and a familistic south.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-2168-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. 1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    In the second part of the last century, major demographic and socioeconomic transformations have been taking place in Europe. The most notable demographic change is the ageing of Europe’s populations, as a result of the transition from relatively high to low fertility and increased life expectancy. Other important demographic changes are: postponement of leaving the parental home (especially in southern Europe), delayed partnership/marriage and parenthood, increases in childlessness (projected in parts of Europe) and increases in union dissolution (e.g. Aassveet al., 2002; Allanet al., 2001; Billariet al., 2001; Hakim, 2000; Kiernan, 2004; Kuijsten, 1999; Liefbroer, 2005). On...

  2. 2. Geographical proximity
    (pp. 11-18)

    The relevance of examining geographical proximity between parents and their adult children is twofold: it is an important indicator of intergenerational relationships and one of the main preconditions for other dimensions of solidarity. Living nearby facilitates contact and support exchange. This applies in particular to face-to-face contact and practical help (De Jong Gierveld & Fokkema, 1998; Hank, 2007; Joseph & Hallman, 1998; Lawtonet al., 1994a; Litwak & Kulis, 1987; Tomassiniet al., 2003).

    In this chapter we will address the variation in geographical proximity between parents and their adult children across European countries and individuals. SHARE respondents were asked about the geographical...

  3. 3. Contacts
    (pp. 19-34)

    Contact frequency between parents and their adult children is the central issue of this chapter. Like geographical proximity, regular contact is needed to exchange support. The more contact there is, the easier it is to give and receive support and to identify whether support is needed. Contact frequency is sometimes seen as a form of support in itself as it meets a social need. It is also an indirect indicator of a range of types of support that are difficult to measure (Kalmijn & Dykstra, 2006). It is worth noting that frequent contact may also be associated with negative interactions. There...

  4. 4. Family care obligations
    (pp. 35-44)

    This chapter focuses on care obligations towards family members. The relevance of examining this normative aspect of solidarity is the interdependence between feelings of obligation and actual support exchange. Earlier research has shown that a sense of duty towards one’s family can have a predictive value for the informal care actually exchanged. Elderly American parents, for example, who felt strongly that family should help one another, gave their children more practical and financial help than parents who felt less strongly about this (Leeet al., 1994). Other studies have shown that the more strongly elderly parents and/or their adult children...

  5. 5. Support exchange
    (pp. 45-68)

    Support exchange is the last dimension of solidarity considered in this study. The literature pays particular attention to two issues. The first is the impact of the expansion of welfare state provisions, such as social security, pension, childcare arrangements and extramural and intramural eldercare services, on support exchange among family members. There is broad consensus that the expansion of the welfare state, together with social and cultural changes, have relieved the family of the primary and life-long responsibility of caring for its members in economic and practical terms (so-called de-familisation; Lister, 1994). There is less consensus, however, whether family support...

  6. 6. Typology of late-life families
    (pp. 69-80)

    Previous chapters subsequently focused on geographical proximity, frequency of contact, family care obligations and support exchange, representing the structural, association, normative and functional solidarity in the Bengtson and Roberts (1991) model, between parents and their adult children. The focus was on describing and explaining the current variations in each specific domain of intergenerational solidarity within and across European countries. In this chapter, we will contrast the four solidarity domains simultaneously, in an aim to find different late-life family types. In other words, we will examine the diversity in adult children-parent relationships on the basis of different domains of intergenerational solidarity....

  7. 7. Conclusion and discussion
    (pp. 81-92)

    Families in Europe have changed considerably in recent decades, in both structural and cultural terms. The most important changes in family structure are the verticalisation and horizontal narrowing of families (Bengtson, 2001; Bengtsonet al., 1990; Farkas & Hogan, 1995; Harper, 2005; Hoganet al., 1993; Seltzeret al., 2005): as life expectancy is rising, families today span a larger number of generations, but due to the declining family size, each successive generation consists of fewer people. We also see that family and marital ties have become weaker. Marriage has lost ground to other living arrangements, divorce is on the rise...

  8. Appendix Measurement of the independent variables
    (pp. 103-112)