Family disruptions and support in later life: A cross-national comparison

Karen F. Glaser, King's College London
Cecilia Tomassini, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Rachel Stuchbury, King's College London
Filomena Racioppi, Università di Roma "La Sapienza"
Janet M Askham, King’s College London

The social support systems of older people may have been adversely affected by trends in family behaviour (e.g. declines in fertility and rises in divorce); however, little research has investigated the consequences of such changes for informal (i.e. social engagement and assistance including care from children) and formal support (i.e. use of community care services) in ageing societies. Moreover, while many western societies have experienced similar socio-demographic trends the impact of these changes on support for older people differs considerably across countries. For example, Italy’s low fertility has not led to a reduction in the availability of family support for older people. Such findings reinforce the importance of cross-national comparisons. Our aim is to investigate how different cultural and policy contexts in Britain and Italy affect the association between disrupted family relationships and key dimensions of informal support (e.g. co-residence with children, receipt of regular help from children, and contact with friends) and the use of community care services (e.g. use of at least one of the following in the past year: home help, meals on wheels, visits from district nurse or health visitor) among those aged 65 and over employing data from the British Household Panel Study (1991-2003) and the 2003 Italian Multipurpose Survey on Family and Childhood Conditions.

Presented in Session 19: Demographic change and the family