Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Financial and Practical Kin Support in Sweden: Normative Guidelines and Practice

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Financial and Practical Kin Support in Sweden: Normative Guidelines and Practice

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Intergenerational solidarity has been a focus of study in many countries during recent decades. Questions have been raised about various determinants behind the extent of kin supply of help, and in particular about the impact of welfare regimes. Previously we have analyzed the relationships between public and private support with a focus on individuals in certain risk positions for marginalisation (Björnberg and Latta, 2007; Latta, forthcoming). Having a very low income was significantly connected to reception of financial and practical support. The other risk indicators studied were not significant determinants of support.1 We found that age was the most important determinant, and givers also referred to emotional closeness as a motive for giving financial support. Our conclusion from these results is that needy situations of the recipient are conditional motives behind private support.

In this article we intend to expand the analysis of motives and motivations for the giving family, and to pay more attention to practical support. The assumptions that have driven our queries are that giving family support is primarily determined by emotions and that sense of duty is of minor importance. The givers' perception of the needs of the recipient is dependent on the specific relationship between giver and recipient. The study is undertaken within a theoretical framework of moral economy and its relevance for gender, generation, social class, ethnicity and family situation.

We will address what people in general consider as appropriate regarding private support, in order to capture some aspects of general normative guidelines for family support. Further, we will analyze reasons or motivations for why they have given financial support, and the extent to which financial support has been given with a "string attached." This we refer to as practical moral guidelines. We also intend to analyze how the flows of support vary for different categories, in order to find some clues to different normative standards-for instance, how experience of divorce between parents during upbringing has an impact on support patterns. Finally, we analyze emotional closeness in families and its role for transmission of resources.

Our assumption that emotional closeness is superseding duty as a motive for providing support is based on theoretical assumptions regarding changes in the institution of the family. It is a well-established fact that in modern Western families emotional involvement is a strong driver behind partnering and raising children (e.g., Giddens, 1992; Cheal, 2002; Beck and Beck-Gernhseim, 1995). Several developments have contributed to change in attitudes and practices towards duties. One of these developments is the process of individualization which brings more open attitudes to traditional norms and practices. Men and women negotiate and reflect upon their family commitments and the self in family relationships; they are not taken for granted. Stronger emphasis on gender equality, as well as geographical and social mobility, has also brought changed norms and practices (Brannen et al., 2004). Replacement of the dominant breadwinner family with one-and-a-half-earner or dual-earner households has strong implications for the balance of power between men and women, as well as for how the partners negotiate their financial and other responsibilities within the household. Another important family change is connected with the increasing number of individuals who have experience of divorce and separation. It can be assumed that the sense of affinity with a nonresident parent may have become weaker and led to thinner support relationships among adults.

THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES

The ideology that has been central behind the construction of the Swedish welfare state is that the state bears the main responsibility for economic provision for individuals when they are not able to provide for themselves. Likewise, the Swedish welfare model in principle also provides different services and care to citizens in need-for example of child and elderly care. …

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