Thy Father & Thy Mother: A Second Look at Filial Responsibility & Family Policy

Thy Father & Thy Mother: A Second Look at Filial Responsibility & Family Policy

Thy Father & Thy Mother: A Second Look at Filial Responsibility & Family Policy

Thy Father & Thy Mother: A Second Look at Filial Responsibility & Family Policy

Excerpt

In 1960 the original study, Filial Responsibility in the Modern American Family, set out to evaluate the effect of public programs, particularly social security, upon the relations of adult children and their aging or at least middle-aging parents. It became evident in the course of that study that first we need to know what such relationships generally are, and so an assessment preceded the program analysis.

A syndicated columnist attacked that report as "radical and visionary" and an "utter perversion of morality" — charges the Government did not then, if ever, take lightly. On the other hand, the report drew wide approval at the 1961 White House Conference on Aging and influenced Congress when, in enacting the Medicaid legislation, it forbade States to make adult children responsible for their parents' expenses.

In the 19 years since that study of filial relationships was written, much that concerns the aged has changed. Half again as many persons are aged 65 and over. Then there were more than 8 aged men for 10 aged women; the ratio is now less than 7 to 10. The median income of the aged was about 40 percent of the income of younger adults; it is now well over 50 percent. And so on. Moreover, government programming for the aged has changed more than the aged themselves. New issues have arisen- for example, the impact of available government funding on institutionalization of the aged.

Apart from changes in the circumstances of the aged, provision for them is involved in a general reappraisal of family and public patterns in the past 30 years. In particular, public resources are regarded as stringently scarce; one asks what the public is paying for that should be paid for privately. Thus, the idea that adult children should pay for certain expenses of their aged parents has once again cropped up in New York and Massachusetts, and perhaps elsewhere. If the idea should take hold, discussion would probably pit "conservatives" against "liberals" in ancient ideological . . .

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