The provision of support towards multiple generations. How does the "sandwiched" generation balance help towards their family?

Athina Vlachantoni, University of Southampton
Maria Evandrou, University of Southampton
Jane C. Falkingham, University of Southampton
Madelin Gomez-Leon, University of Southampton

There is limited evidence, in particular for the UK, on the recent trends and characteristics of the so-called “Sandwich generation”. This refers to those individuals in their mid-life who are facing the responsibilities of caring for multiple generations, usually towards young/adult children and elderly parents. With the large generation of the baby boomers entering mid and late life and an increasing number of families sharing longer years of their life among 3-4 generations, there is an increasing concern regarding the pressure that individuals could face when they are involved in multiple roles such as simultaneous caring roles as well as paid employment. In this paper, we use recent data from the 1958 National Child Development Survey to examine how mid-life men and women distribute their time dedicated to provide help to their elderly parents and to their own adult children (in terms of providing grandchild care). Moreover, we investigate the socio-demographic characteristics that distinguish individuals supporting multiple generations from those who provide help only towards one generation, or individuals who do not provide any support towards family members. Initial results from the research show that around one third of mid-life individuals are ‘at risk’ of providing care to multiple generations, meaning that they have at least one parent or parent-in-law alive and at least one grandchild alive (regardless of whether their adult child who is the parent of their grandchild is alive or not), and therefore may become ‘sandwiched’ between the older generation and the younger generation in terms of providing support. Among these individuals, half provide care to both generations simultaneously. With a broader definition of support provided towards parents/ parents-in-law, we found that being sandwiched between two generations in terms of having support responsibilities is more common than what has been found in previous studies.

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Presented in Session 42: Well-being and family environment