Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Family Structure and Parent-Child Contact: A Comparison of Native and Migrant Families

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Family Structure and Parent-Child Contact: A Comparison of Native and Migrant Families

Article excerpt

This article is an investigation of the frequency of contact between parents and adult children in Germany. It compares Turkish immigrants and native Germans and includes both biological and step-relations. After the United States and Russia, Germany reports the third highest proportion of immigrants internationally, but the extent to which results regarding natives are applicable to immigrant families remains unknown. Data are from the first wave of the German Generations and Gender Surveys (2005) and the supplemental survey of Turkish citizens living in Germany (2006). A total of 7,035 parent-child relations are analyzed. The frequency of parent-adult child contact is significantly higher for biological parents living with the child's other biological parent than for parents without a partner, parents with a new partner, or stepparents. Contact is more frequent for all Turkish families, but the pattern of variation by family structure is similar for both Germans and Turks.

Key Words: family diversity, family structure, frequency of contact, intergenerational relations, migrant families, stepfamilies.

Spurred by changing demographic conditions and concerns over the centrifugal social forces of modernity, intergenerational familial relations have been receiving ever more attention. This article addresses the broad issue of whether parents and adult children are still able to bridge generational barriers and preserve family ties despite the pressures of modern life. Empirical studies have yielded a generally reassuring picture, showing that family members of different generations do indeed support each other when needed, maintain regular contact, and generally consider their mutual relations to be of high quality (e.g., blank, 2007; Igel, Brandt, Haberkern, & Szydlik, 2009; Rossi & Rossi, 1990; Silverstein, Gans, Lowenstein, Giarrusso, & Bengtson, 2010; van der Pas, van Tilburg, & Knipscheer, 2007). Yet, given the increased prevalence of diverse familial structures and the increased significance of immigration worldwide, an important question remain unanswered: Does intergenerational contact vary between different family forms both for immigrant and native families?

Consider first the fact that an increasingly significant share of families have experienced parental breakup, if not also remarriage, in the parents' generation (Andersson, 2002). If a biological parent enters a new partnership (either after parental breakup or upon the death of the other parent), a stepfamily is founded and the step-relation between the new partner and the child is established (Ganong & Coleman, 2004, p. 2). An important point is that this definition of step-relations is limited neither to those who reside in the same household nor to minor children. The focus of this study lies exclusively on parent-child relations in later life, in particular on the influence of the partnership situation of the parental generation on the parent-adult child relationship. This specificity of focus is justified because the stability of support in parent-child relationships is at the heart of the social and economic challenges facing demographically aging societies (Glaser, Tomassini, & Stuchbury, 2008; Schans & Komter, 2010). Because only a small percentage of elderly individuals now receiving personal care are separated or divorced, one cannot extrapolate data from current levels of intergenerational support to arrive at accurate prognoses of support exchanges in the future; this holds true for the native as well as the immigrant population. Given that parents and their adult children must maintain stable personal contact if instrumental support is to be given, it makes sense to use face-to-face contact as a proxy for potentially available support. Note, too, that although a number of studies of intergenerational relations among separated families and step families have suggested that the dissolution of the parental partnership reduces contact frequency and exchange of support in old age (Glaser, Stuchbury, Tomassini, & Askham, 2008; Kalmijn, 2007; Tomassini et ah, 2004), these analyses have ignored immigrants as a group almost completely despite their size and importance in modern societies (United Nations Population Fund, 2011). …

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.