Intergenerational flows of support between parents and adult children

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

Understanding patterns of intergenerational support is critical in the context of population ageing and changes in the policy landscape of health and social care provision. Existing research has usually analysed intergenerational support at a given time in the individuals’ lifecourse. However, the lack of empirical data has rendered the study of the dynamic nature of such support a more difficult task. Using data from the 1958 National Child Development Survey, this paper examines the extent to which the receipt of help from one’s parents in early adulthood affects the chances of adult-children to reciprocate with support later in life (when the children are aged 50). Results from the research show that three-quarters of both men and women had received some kind of help from their parents earlier in life, and more than half provided some kind of support towards their parents at age 50. Patterns of support received and provided across the lifecourse are markedly different by gender, with sons in early adulthood being more likely to have received help with finances and accommodation, and daughters with childcare, finances and emotional support. The results also show that the provision of support to parents was associated with having received support earlier in life. However, there seems to be a ‘gradient of reciprocity’ towards parents, which affects the type of help provided by adult children. Highly demanding types of help provided to parents are not necessarily associated with the past receipt of support, which corresponds with the altruism model (especially for daughters), while less demanding types of help are associated with the past receipt of support and correspond to reciprocity norms (especially for sons). Such findings have implications for the provision of informal care towards future cohorts of older people, and by extension, the organisation of formal systems of social care.

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Presented in Session 97: Determinants of intergenerational transfers