Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Specialization between Family and State Intergenerational Time Transfers in Western Europe

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Specialization between Family and State Intergenerational Time Transfers in Western Europe

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Demographic change and particularly the growing number of elderly people are more and more a matter of public concern and of sociological interest. The main question of the debate is how support demands of older people can continue to be met. Sociological research attends to these concerns by analyzing intergenerational solidarity patterns and especially different support types between family members. Elderly people are particularly dependent on multifaceted support in their everyday life. This ranges from occasional help with the housework to round the clock physical nursing and care. The family is primarily providing these services with the children being one of the most important suppliers of intergenerational time transfers.

Anyhow, old and even very old people do not only receive support but often constitute an important source of intergenerational solidarity themselves (cf. BMFSFJ, 2006; Gallagher, 1994; Hank and Stuck, 2007; Kiinemund, 2006). As a consequence of higher life expectations and overall improved health status they are able to engage in different forms of help like for example the provision of child care (Hoff, 2007). More flexible life courses and increasing employment rates of women create new family diversity in terms of composition and organization. Thus, grandparents often occupy a central role in the support networks of families and strengthen the parents' ability to cope with the challenges of child care organization and employment. So far, only few studies have investigated the provision of grandchild care as an important form of intergenerational solidarity in a comparative perspective (e.g., Hank and Buber, 2008).

In this paper, by focusing on intergenerational time transfers flowing upwards to the elderly parents and downwards to adult children, we identify three main support types: (1) help and (2) personal care (from the child to the parent) and (3) help with grandchild care (to adult children).1 Time transfers between children and their parents are a flourishing field of research. In most studies all kinds of help and care activities are summarized under one concept, as "care," "support" or "time transfers" (e.g., Attias-Donfut, Ogg and Wolff, 2005). This approach permits to assess the extent of intergenerational support, but it does not consider substantial differences between help and care, even though the frequency and type of activity vary considerably (cf. Walker, Pratt and Eddy, 1995). Furthermore, occasional help and personal care may be influenced by different conditions on the individual and family level. Thus, by dismantling the broader concept of time transfers and separating between help and care, we are able to compare how opportunity, need and family structures (Szydlik, 2000, 2008) affect the helpers' and care givers' engagement differently.

Furthermore. cultural-contextual structures have to be taken into account. European societies are all affected by demographic aging and new family diversity, but the political reactions and approaches differ strongly from country to country. A variety of institutional approaches emerges and forms the contextual frame of individual help and care behavior. However, not only the state policies impact on families. Family customs and cultures can as well influence state policies. In a functional perspective family and the state fulfill a support function for people in need. Basically we may find three different modes: firstly, both private and public providers fulfill the same function together and stimulate each other, secondly family and state substitute for each other, and a strong family coincides with a minor provision of social services and vice versa. Thirdly, the two sources of support may be complementary and both providers specialize in certain dimensions of support, a process which is recently discussed as "functional differentiation" or "mixed responsibility" (cf. Daatland and Lowenstein, 2005; Motel-Klingebiel and Tesch-Röer, 2006). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.