Family Networks and Supports in Older Age

  • Carlos ChiattiEmail author
  • Maria Gabriella Melchiorre
  • Mirko Di Rosa
  • Andrea Principi
  • Sara Santini
  • Hanneli Döhner
  • Giovanni Lamura
Part of the International Perspectives on Aging book series (Int. Perspect. Aging, volume 6)


This chapter will focus on the role of family networks and other social support networks for well-being in older age, providing empirical data across European countries on different sources of support. The first section will illustrate how family care in this respect represents a relevant actor, not only in traditional familistic societies but also in more well-developed European welfare states. Comparative data will be presented in particular on the role played by the family in granting assistance in case of increased dependency in older age. A related issue will be represented by the availability of supports to reconcile paid work and (unpaid) care tasks, especially in the light of the Europe-wide trends to a prolonged working life and increasing female participation in the labour market. Recent empirical evidence will be furthermore provided of the growing importance of migrant care work in households with dependent older people across the Continent, in particular when the formal care system is unable to tackle the challenge of very heavy care needs. The chapter will finally describe the effects of lacking family and support networks, which might take the form of elder abuse and neglect, identifying the main risk factors and possible strategies to prevent it.


Family network Caregiving Migrant care workers Care services Reconciliation of care and work 


  1. Acierno, R., Hernandez, M. A., Amstadter, A. B., Resnick, H. S., Steve, K., Muzzy, W., & Kilpatrick, D. G. (2010). Prevalence and correlates of emotional, physical, sexual, neglectful, and financial abuse in the United States: The national elder mistreatment study. American Journal of Public Health, 100, 292–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alber, J., & Kohler, U. (2004). European foundation for the improvement of living and working conditions, health and care in an enlarged Europe. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, R., Mikuliç, B., Vermeylen, G., Lyly-Yrjanainen, M., & Zigante, V. (2009). Second European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS 2007): Overview. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. Accessed 7 Feb 2011.Google Scholar
  4. Balducci, C., Melchiorre, M. G., Quattrini, S., & Lamura, G. (2008). Caring for a family member with dementia: Evidence from a cross sectional comparative study on caregiver burden and psychological well-being (European Papers on the New Welfare No. 9, pp. 182–197). Trieste: The Risk Institute. Accessed 13 Jan 2011.Google Scholar
  5. Biggs, S. M. J., Tinker, A., Doyle, M., & Erens, B. (2009). Mistreatment of older people in the United Kingdom: Findings from the first national prevalence study. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 21(1), 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brozowski, K., & Hall, D. (2003). Elder abuse in a risk society. Geriatrics Today, 6, 167–172.Google Scholar
  7. Cangiano, A., Shutes, I., Spencer, S., & Leeson, G. (2009). Migrant care workers in ageing societies: Research findings in the United Kingdom. Executive Summary. Oxford: COMPAS.Google Scholar
  8. Cantor, M., & Little, V. (1985). Aging and social care. In R. H. Binstock & E. Shanas (Eds.), The handbook on aging and the social sciences. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.Google Scholar
  9. CENSIS (2009). Una famiglia italiana su dieci è badante-dipendente. Roma. Accessed 30 Sep 2009.Google Scholar
  10. Cooney, C., & Mortimer, A. (1995). Elder abuse and dementia: A pilot study. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 4, 276–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cooper, C., Selwood, A. C., & Livingston, G. (2008). The prevalence of elder abuse and neglect: A systematic review. Age and Ageing, 37(2), 151–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Daatland, S. O., & Herlofson, K. (2003). ‘Lost solidary’ or ‘changed solidarity’: A comparative European view on normative family solidarity. Ageing & Society, 23(5), 537–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. de Jong Gierveld, J. (2009). Living arrangements and differences in family support: A comparative perspective, seminar on family support networks and population ageing. Doha, Qatar, 3–4 June. Accessed 6 May 2011.Google Scholar
  14. Decalmer, P., & Glendenning, F. (1993). The mistreatment of elderly people. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  15. Di Rosa, M., Melchiorre, M. G., Chiatti, C., Greco, C., & Lamura, G. (2011a). Esigenze di supporto dei familiari che assistono e rischi di maltrattamento dell’anziano: l’evidenza empirica dallo studio EUROFAMCARE. Se l’amore mal-tratta: rischio di maltrattamento psicologico nel lavoro di cura con l’anziano fragile, Milano, 16 Marzo 2011, Conferenza Caritas Ambrosiana—SEGESTA. Accessed 12 July 2011.Google Scholar
  16. Di Rosa, M., Principi, A., Santini, S., & Lamura, G. (2011b). The reconciliation of employment and eldercare in the EUROFAMCARE findings: A secondary data analysis. In A. Principi & J. Perek-Białas (Eds.), The reconciliation of employment and eldercare: A secondary data analysis, report for the Carers@Work project. Accessed 15 July 2011.Google Scholar
  17. DIP (Deutsche Institut für angewandte Pflegeforschung e. V.). (2009). Situation und Bedarfe von Familien mit mittel- und osteuropäischen Haushaltshilfen. Cologne: Deutsche Institut für angewandte Pflegeforschung e. V.Google Scholar
  18. Doyle, M., & Timonen, V. (2009). The different faces of care work: Understanding the experiences of the multi-cultural care workforce. Ageing and Society, 29, 337–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. European Commission (2008). Long-term care in the European Union. Brussels: Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. Accessed 7 Feb 2011.Google Scholar
  20. Eurostat (2011). Self-perceived limitations in daily activities (activity restriction for at least the past 6 months). Accessed 24 March 2011Google Scholar
  21. Eurostat-European Commission (2010). In B. Anthony, A. E. Marlier (Eds.), Income and living conditions in Europe. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.–10-555/EN/KS-31–10-555-EN.PDF. Accessed 16 Jun 2011.Google Scholar
  22. Ferraro, K. F., Shippee, T. P., & Schafer, M. H. (2009). Cumulative inequality theory for research on aging and the life course. In V. L. Bengtson, D. Gans, N. M. Putney, & M. Silverstein (Eds.), Handbook of theories of aging (pp. 413–433). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  23. Ferreira, M. (2009). Protecting older persons against violence, abuse and discrimination, Seminar on family support networks and population ageing. Doha, Qatar, 3–4 June 2009 Accessed 26 April 2011.Google Scholar
  24. Fujisawa, R., & Colombo, F. (2009). The long-term care workforce: Overview and strategies to adapt supply to growing demand. Paris: OECD.$FILE/JT03261422.PDF. Accessed 22 Mar 2011.Google Scholar
  25. Glaser, K., Tomassini, C., & Agree, E. (2009). Family disruption and social support among older people across Europe. Seminar on family support networks and population ageing. Doha, Qatar, 3–4 June. Accessed 22 Mar 2011.Google Scholar
  26. Glendinning, C. (2009). Cash for care: Implications for carers. Health and Ageing, 21, 3–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Görgen, T. (2009). Domestic care and elder abuse: Intricate connections. GeroBilim, 1. Accessed 13 Jan 2011.Google Scholar
  28. Grundtvig (2010, September).Caring and post caring in Europe—Overview report. Accessed 6 May 2011.Google Scholar
  29. Grundy, E. (2009). Family support for older people in Europe: Determinants and consequences. Seminar on family support networks and population ageing. Doha, Qatar, 3–4 June. Accessed 7 Feb 2011.Google Scholar
  30. Herrmann, F. R., Michel, J.-P., & Robine, J.-M. (2010). Worldwide decline in the oldest old support ratio. European Geriatric Medicine, 1(1), 3–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hoffmann, F., & Rodrigues, R. (2010). Informal carers: Who takes care of them? (European Centre, Policy Brief, April). Vienna: European Centre. Accessed 16 June 2011.Google Scholar
  32. Huber, M., Rodrigues, R., Hoffmann, F., Gasior, K., & Marin, B. (2010). Informal carers: The backbone of long-term care. Budapest, February 22nd 2010. Vienna: European Centre. Accessed 6 May 2011.Google Scholar
  33. Iecovich, E. (2009). The role of migrant homecare workers in providing care to frail older people. Paper presented at the International Expert Meeting on “Monitoring long-term care for the elderly”. Jerusalem, 9th Sep 2009. Accessed 26 Apr 2011.Google Scholar
  34. INE (2008). Work permits granted to foreign nationals for domestic work—1999 and 2006. Madrid. Accessed 30 Sep 2009.Google Scholar
  35. Jenson, J., & Jacobzone, S. (2000). Care allowances for the frail elderly and their impact on women caregivers. Paris: OECD.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kanellopoulos, C. N., & Gregou, M. (2006). Managed migration and the labour market—The health sector in Greece. Athens: Centre of Planning and Economic Research.Google Scholar
  37. Lachs, M. S. (1998). The mortality of elder abuse. Journal of the American Medical Association, 280(5), 428–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lamura, G., Melchiorre, M. G., Principi, A., & Lucchetti, M. (2008a). Migrant workers in the eldercare sector: The Italian experience. Retraite et Société, Selection 2008. Caisse Nationale d’Assurance Vieillesse, Paris, 125–152.Google Scholar
  39. Lamura, G., Döhner, H., & Kofahl, C. (Eds.). (2008b). Family carers of older people in Europe. A six-country comparative study. Berlin: LIT Verlag.Google Scholar
  40. Lamura, G., Chiatti, C., Di Rosa, M., Melchiorre, M. G., Barbabella, F., Greco, C., Principi, A., & Santini, S. (2010a) Migrant workers in the long-term care sector: Lessons from Italy. Health and Ageing, 22, 8–12.Google Scholar
  41. Lamura, G., Di Rosa, M., Melchiorre, M. G., & Chiatti, C. (2010b). The interaction among migrant care workers, family carers and professional services in the Italian elder care sector. Paper presented at the 8th ESPAnet Conference on “Social Policy and the Global Crisis: Consequences and Responses”, Budapest, 2–4 Sep 2010.Google Scholar
  42. Laslett, P. (1989). A fresh map of life: The emergence of the third age. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson.Google Scholar
  43. Lethbridge, J. (2007). Changing care services and labour markets. Paper presented at the EPSU Social Services seminar held in Athens on 10–12 June. University of Greenwich, Public Services International Research Unit.Google Scholar
  44. Litwin, H. (2010). Social networks and well-being: A comparison of older people in mediterranean and non-mediterranean countries. The Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 65B(5), 599–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lowenstein, A. (2007). Solidarity–conflict and ambivalence: Testing two conceptual frameworks and their impact on quality of life for older family members. The Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 62B(2), S100–S107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lundsgaards, J. (2005). Consumer direction and choice in long-term care for older persons, including payments for informal care. How can it help improve care outcomes, employment and fiscal sustainability? (OECD Health Working Paper No. 20). Paris: OECD Accessed 7 Feb 2011.Google Scholar
  47. Matthews, S. H. (2002). Sisters and brothers/daughters and sons: Meeting the needs of old parents. Bloomington: Unlimited.Google Scholar
  48. Melchiorre, M. G., Di Rosa, M., Chiatti, C., & Lamura, G. (2010). Italia e Europa a confronto. In C. Gori, M. Trabucchi, & F. Pesaresi (Eds.), L’assistenza agli anziani non autosufficienti in ItaliaSecondo Rapporto (NNA) 2010 (pp. 181–187). Santarcangelo di Romagna: Maggioli.Google Scholar
  49. Melchiorre, M. G., Greco, C., Di Rosa, M., Quattrini, S., Lamura, G., & Soares, J. J. F. (2011). Il maltrattamento delle persone anziane in Italia: alcuni risultati dello studio ABUEL e del progetto TAM TAM. Relazione presentata al Convegno “Se l’amore mal-tratta: rischio di maltrattamento psicologico nel lavoro di cura con l’anziano fragile, Caritas Ambrosiana—Segesta, Milano, 16 marzo 2011. Accessed 12 July 2011.Google Scholar
  50. Mowlam, A., Tennant, R., Dixon, J., & McCreadie, C. (2007). UK study of abuse and neglect of older people: Qualitative findings. Report prepared for Comic Relief and Department of Health, August. Accessed 7 Feb 2011.Google Scholar
  51. OECD (2008). International migration outlook. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  52. Peri, K., Fanslow, J., Hand, J., & Parsons, J. (2009). Keeping older people safe by preventing elder abuse and neglect. Social Policy Journal of New Zealand, 35, 159–172.Google Scholar
  53. Podnieks, E., Penhale, B., Goergen, T., Biggs, S., & Han, D. (2010). Elder mistreatment: An international narrative. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 22(1/2), 131–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Redfoot, D. L., & Houser, A. N. (2005). We shall travel on: Quality of care, economic development, and the international migration of long-term care workers. Washington: AARP Public policy Institute. Accessed 12 March 2010.Google Scholar
  55. Reinhard, S., Danso-Brooks, A., & Kelly, K. (Eds.). (2008). State of science: Professional partners supporting family caregivers. American Journal of Nursing, 108(Suppl. 9), 58–63.Google Scholar
  56. Rothgang, H., Becker, R., Knorr, K., Lessmann, O., & Timm, A. (2006). Socio-economic report for thecore countries: Executive summary: Eurofamcare. Bremen: University of Bremen.Google Scholar
  57. Saraceno, C., Olagnero, M., & Torrioni, P. (2006). First European quality of life survey: Families, work and social networks. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. Accessed 22 Mar 2011.Google Scholar
  58. Schlette, S., Blum, K., & Busse, R. (2009). Austria: Legalising illegal home care. Health Policy Developments, 10, 29–32.Google Scholar
  59. Schneider, U., & Trukeschitz, B. (2008). Changing long-term care needs in ageing societies: Austria’s policy responses. Vienna: University of Economics and Business. Accessed 12 March 2011.Google Scholar
  60. Sethi, D., Mitis, F., & Racioppi, F. (2010). Preventing injuries in Europe: From international collaboration to local implementation. Copenhagen: WHO. Accessed 16 June 2011.Google Scholar
  61. SHARE (2010). Tackling the demographic challenge, The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, 2010. pdf. Accessed 22 Mar 2011.Google Scholar
  62. Singleton, S., Aye Maung, N., Cowie, A., Sparks, J., Bumpstead, R., & Meltzer, H. (2002). Mental health of carers. London: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  63. Soares, J. J. F., Barros, H., Torres-Gonzales, F., Ioannidi-Kapolou, E., Lamura, G., Lindert, J., de Dios Luna, J., Macassa, G., Melchiorre, M. G., & Stankunas, M. (2010). Abuse and health among elderly in Europe. Kaunas: Lithuanian University of Health Sciences Press.Google Scholar
  64. Special Eurobarometer (2007). Health and long-term care in the European Union (No. 283, Wave 67.3). European Commission. Accessed 26 Apr 2011.Google Scholar
  65. Stone, R., Cafferata, G. L., & Sangl, J. (1987). Caregivers of the frail elderly: A national profile. The Gerontologist, 27, 616–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. van Bavel, M., Janssens, K., Schakenraad, W., & Thurlings, N. (2010, June). Elder abuse in Europe. Background and position paper. EUROPEAN project. Accessed 16 June 2011.Google Scholar
  67. Van Dussen, D. J., & Morgan, L. A. (2009). Gender and informal caregiving in CCRCs: Primary caregivers or support networks? Journal of Women & Aging, 21, 4, 251–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Walsh, F. (2003). Family resilience: A framework for clinical practice. Family Processes, 42, 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. WHO-INPEA (2002). Missing voices: Views of older person on elder abuse. Global response against elder abuse. Geneva: World Health Organization. Accessed 13 Jan 2011.Google Scholar
  70. WHO (2010). Preventing injuries in Europe: From international collaboration to local implementation (By Dinesh Sethi, Francesco Mitis & Francesca Racioppi) Accessed 7 Feb 2011.Google Scholar
  71. Yeandle, S., & Buckner, L. (2007). Carers, employment and services: Time for a new social contract? London: Carers UK and University of Leeds.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carlos Chiatti
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maria Gabriella Melchiorre
    • 1
  • Mirko Di Rosa
    • 1
  • Andrea Principi
    • 1
  • Sara Santini
    • 1
  • Hanneli Döhner
    • 2
  • Giovanni Lamura
    • 1
  1. 1.National Institute of Health and Science on AgingAnconaItaly
  2. 2.University of HamburgHamburgGermany

Personalised recommendations