Intergenerational residential proximity: a European comparison

Fabio Bordignon, University of Urbino
Gianpiero Dalla Zuanna, University of Padua
Francesca Michielin, University van Amsterdam

The interest in family ties and family networks has recently considerably spread, due to an aging society and the potential role family members can play in providing care and friendship to each other. Proximity between family members is thus seen as a crucial aspect, since it guarantees the possibility of finding help and companionship within the family. In a European perspective, recent research already pointed out the existence of a South/North contrast within Europe, mirroring the differences in strength of family ties across countries: in countries characterised by strong family ties, young adult are closer to each other than in countries where weak family ties hold. However, in the general picture of Europe the situation of the Eastern European countries remains largely unexplored. Analyzing data collected in July 2005 by LaPolis (University of Urbino) and Fondazione Nord Est on six European countries (Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic), we describe proximity between adult children and their parents and parents-in-law (when present) in the European context, and give further insights on the determinants of proximity and the way their impact differs between countries. Those data allow us to explore the existence of both a North/South contrast and East/West contrast in geographical pattern. Our results show that there are strong differences between West, East and South Europe. In Italy, children live nearest to both mother and mother of partner compared with all other countries, whereas Germany and France show the lowest proximities between parents and children, and the Central-Eastern European countries are in an intermediate position. The picture is slightly more confused when we analyze proximity with parents in law, but strong differences across European countries still persist. The strong heterogeneity in family systems is therefore reflected in proximity levels between adult children and their parents and parents-in-law.

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Presented in Session 7: Intergenerational relations