Économie et Statistique n° 403-404 - 2007Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe
Family Assistance Configurations for Dependent Older People in Europe
The Share survey allows us to analyse the assistance given by their children to dependent persons aged 65 and over in European countries. How is individual behaviour structured to give rise to family assistance frameworks? Two relationships are envisaged, according to whether children live with their dependent parent or not. The proportion of dependent older people receiving support from their entourage in one form or another is remarkably constant, ranging from 79% in Sweden and the Netherlands to 87% in Italy. In northern countries, the lower level of intergenerational cohabitation is offset by the more frequent assistance given by non-cohabiting children. In the six countries studied here, children's involvement is greater when the degree of dependence of the parent is higher and when the parent has no spouse. However, the north-south divide is apparent in the way in which children adapt to their dependent parent's lack of a spouse: increased cohabitation of female children in southern countries, increased «remote» assistance from male and female children in northern countries. The presence of a dependent parent's spouse seems to change children's involvement relationships. If the dependent parent receives assistance from his or her spouse, children's involvement depends on individual decisions, leading to an increasing probability of support where the number of children is higher. Support for single parents on the other hand seems to be driven by a sibling logic where the probability that the parent will be supported is identical however many children there are. Where a single parent has two children, there is a difference between the behaviour of the elder child and the younger. On average, the involvement of the younger child seems to depend on that of the elder (the probability that the younger becomes involved seems to be lower if the elder becomes involved), but the reverse is not true.