Intergenerational contact in Europe: altruism or exchange?

Valeria Bordone, Vienna University of Economics and Business
Pearl Dykstra, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Contact between elderly parents and their adult children is recognized as one of the basic opportunity structures of intergenerational support. This paper examines cross-national differences in the frequency of parent-child contact in 15 European countries (N = 23,097). Using data from the two waves of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), we analyse the role of altruistic and exchange motives. Altruism assumes that intergenerational interactions are governed by concern about the well-being of the other: interactions are more frequent if needs are high. Exchange assumes that intergenerational interactions are governed by the prospect of future returns: interactions are more frequent if more rewards are anticipated. Indicators of altruistic motives are widowhood and poor health of the parent, and divorce, widowhood, and parenthood of the adult child. Indicators of exchange motives are the likelihood of leaving an inheritance, parental divorce, and living nearby. Two sets of analyses are carried out, one including coresidential ties, and one excluding intergenerational coresidence.

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Presented in Session 24: Intergenerational contact and proximity