Intergenerational Support to Aging Parents

The Role of Norms and Needs

Published In: Journal of Family Issues, v. 27, no. 8, Aug. 2006, p. 1068-1084

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2005

by Merril Silverstein, Daphna Gans

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This investigation examines how norms of filial responsibility influence adult children to provide social support to their aging parents. Relying on intergenerational solidarity and social capital theories, the authors hypothesize that filial responsibility as a latent resource is more strongly converted into support when (a) the parent experiences increased need and (b) the child in question is a daughter. Using data from 488 adult children in the Longitudinal Study of Generations, the authors examine change in support provided between 1997 and 2000. Declining health of either parent increases the strength with which filial norms predisposed children to provide support. The conversion of filial norms into support is stronger among daughters than among sons but only toward mothers. Results are discussed in terms of the contingent linkage between latent and manifest functions and the persistence of gender role differentiation in the modem family

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