Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Intergenerational Support and the Emotional Well-Being of Older Jews and Arabs in Israel

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Intergenerational Support and the Emotional Well-Being of Older Jews and Arabs in Israel

Article excerpt

This investigation examined the cultural context of intergenerational support among older Jewish and Arab parents living in Israel. The authors hypothesized that support from adult children would be more positively consequential for the psychological well-being of Arab parents than of Jewish parents. The data derived from 3 75 adults age 65 and older living in Israel. Psychological well-being was measured with positive and negative affect subscales of the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule. Overall, positive affect was highest when filial expectations for support were congruent with whether or not instrumental support was received. Findings by cultural background revealed that, among older Jews, receiving instrumental support raised positive affect and stronger filial expectations lowered it. Among older Arabs, receiving financial support raised positive affect and receiving instrumental support lowered it. Culture appears to serve as a potent force in determining which types of inter generational support functions are expected and accepted means of serving the everyday needs of older parents.

Key Words: Arabs, culture, emotional well-being, intergenerational support, Israel, Jews, older parents.

It has long been noted that children form the backbone of the informal support system of older adults (Roberto & Jarrott, 2008; Szinovacz & Davey, 2007; Wolff & Kasper, 2006). In almost all societies, older adults expect to rely on their adult children as critical sources of support and care should they become frail and experience age-related deficits (Albertini, Kohli, & Vogel, 2007; Lowenstein, Katz, & Gur-Yaish, 2008). Increasingly investigated are the wider contexts-national, social, and cultural-within which support from adult children is triggered, remains dormant, or is substituted for by other means. A variety of research on multinational samples has shown significant differences between societies in this regard, with more advanced welfare regimes sometimes replacing and sometimes enhancing intergenerational support for older adults (Brandt, Haberkern, & Szydlik, 2009; Lowenstein & Daatland, 2006).

There is still much to learn, though, from studying single societies that have substantial cultural heterogeneity within their borders (Dilworth-Anderson & Cohen, 2009). These types of investigation are also important because they highlight how cultural membership-both in terms of filial values and social position within the society-influence the way older individuals and their families appraise support needs, establish preferences for support, and consider alternatives to family support within a common welfare regime.

Cultural background shapes the goals to which people aspire, the attainment of which may be a source of solace, and the failure to attain a possible source of distress (Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999). Family transactions are particularly rooted in cultural values and beliefs that frame expectations of family members and infuse family behaviors (and their absence) with meaning (Goodenough, 1981). Research shows that intergenerational flows of support vary-both in their prevalence and their consequences-across ethnic groups (Goodman & Silverstein, 2002) as well as across societies with different cultural regimes (Torres-Gil, 2005).

In this study, we examined intergenerational support for the aged in Israel, a society with strong social democratic policies and a developed social service system but that comprises highly familistic cultures among its various religious and ethnic groups, reinforced by a legal mandate that children provide support to their older parents in need (Katz, Gur-Yaish, & Lowenstein, 2010).

Specifically, we investigated the consequences of regular intergenerational support for the psychological well-being of older Jews and older Arabs. Although the challenges faced by elders and their families are similar in the two groups, the solutions to those challenges vary considerably, with greater reliance on family in the Arab community and greater reliance on the formal service system in the Jewish community (e. …

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