European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 39–50

Gendered support to older parents: do welfare states matter?

Original Investigation

DOI: 10.1007/s10433-011-0197-1

Cite this article as:
Schmid, T., Brandt, M. & Haberkern, K. Eur J Ageing (2012) 9: 39. doi:10.1007/s10433-011-0197-1


The aim of this study is to examine the association of welfare state policies and the gendered organisation of intergenerational support (instrumental help and personal care) to older parents. The study distinguishes between support to older parents provided at least weekly, i.e. time-intensive and often burdening support, and supplemental sporadic support. Three policy instruments were expected to be associated with daughters’ and sons’ support or gender inequality in intergenerational support respectively: (1) professional social services, (2) cash-for-care payments and (3) legal obligations to provide or co-finance care for parents. The analyses based on the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe showed that daughters provided somewhat more sporadic and much more intensive support than sons throughout Europe. While about half of all children who sporadically supported a parent were men, this applied to only one out of four children who provided intensive support. Logistic multilevel models revealed that legal obligations were positively associated with daughters’ likelihood of giving intensive support to parents but did not affect the likelihood of sons doing so. Legal obligations thus stimulate support in a gender-specific way. Both legal obligations and cash-for-care schemes were also accompanied by a more unequal distribution of involvement in intensive support at the expense of women. Social services, in contrast, were linked to a lower involvement of daughters in intensive support. In sum, the results suggest that welfare states can both preserve or reduce gender inequality in intergenerational support depending on specific arrangements.


Intergenerational support Older people Gender Gender inequality Welfare state European comparison SHARE 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Sociology, University of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA)MunichGermany