Mapping intergenerational care across households in the UK: analysing proximity, propinquity and resources in the ‘Tacit Intergenerational Contract’

Alex Fanghanel, University College London
Ernestina E. Coast, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Sara Randall, University College London

Intergenerational exchanges of care form the backbone of informal care arrangements in the UK. Against a background of cuts in public spending and an increasingly ageing population, the centrality of familial or kinship care, in the provision of everyday or practical intergenerational care (including providing housing, personal care, doing the shopping, providing childcare etc) is an ever more pressing question for policy-makers and ageing professionals. At present, flows of intergenerational care are difficult to capture precisely in surveys enumerated at the household level. In 2011 in the UK, the household was defined as‘one person living alone or a group of people (not necessarily related) living at the same address, who share cooking facilities and share a living room or a sitting room or a dining area’. Within this definition of the household, recognition of transfers of care which transcend the household are lacking. This has implications for recognising the financial, residential and temporal (amongst others) obligations which might tie households together and impact in a very real way on the day-to-day well-being of people at a societal level. Drawing on data gathered from interviews with policy makers and ageing specialists as well as from 36 purposively-sampled household interviews, this paper examines how proximity – the spatial closeness between people – and propinquity – the emotional closeness between people – and access to financial resources - intersect to influence normative familial expectations (e.g.children will contribute to their elderly parents’ care, grandparents can be relied upon to look after grandchildren) intertwine to create a network of intergenerational care that transcends both familial kinship ties and the household itself. Diagrammatically reproducing these relationships with genographs, we outline the heterogeneity of these relationships and suggest how the complexity of day-to-day household arrangements of intergenerational care can better be accounted for at policy level.

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Presented in Session 24: Intergenerational contact and proximity