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Fewer children, distant relatives or friends, and an increasing plurality of family models are factors that impact on the availability of support and care in old age. Tiziana Nazio, a researcher at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, has explored how early family formation events relate to the emotional and practical support that people give and receive in older age. Her results show that women still bear the brunt of the burden of care. What people do at an early stage of life in terms of family building is a predictor of the size and composition of the emotional support networks they will have later in life. However, irrespective of the circumstances of older age, the number of children and the presence of a partner are the factors that ultimately strongly predict whether or not someone receives practical support and personal care.
Family formation early in life can influence the availability of kin later on by establishing ties with spouses, children, and in-laws. It may also affect the opportunity to establish long-term relationships and networks that can act as substitutes for kin in old age. With SHARE survey data from five countries for the birth cohorts 1927-1966, Tiziana Nazio, Marie Skłodowska-Curie research fellow at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, mapped typical family formation patterns in early adulthood and investigated whether they come to bear on social support given and received in later life.
Family - Formation - Patterns - Size - Individuals
Early family formation patterns were predictive of the size of old-age individuals' emotional support networks independent of the current family circumstance and number of children. Emotional support networks often include partners and children (in around half of the cases one or more). All else being equal, childless individuals and couples who had only one child tended to report smaller networks. Further, family disruption resulted in smaller networks, although...
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