Families in context: Unraveling the ways in which policy, economic, and cultural contexts structure generational interdependencies in families and their life outcomes

Recognizing that in ageing societies many parents are also children, even grandchildren, in a multi-generational structure, the project has generational interdependencies in families as its unifying theme. Interdependencies exist when family members are emotionally, financially, practically, and morally reliant on and responsible to each other. The project’s main objective is to unravel the ways in which policy, economic, and cultural contexts structure generational interdependencies in families and their life outcomes. The project expands work on multiple dimensions of generational interdependence to four areas of research where significant theoretical and empirical progress can be made by disregarding disciplinary fences.

First, new insights can be gained from acknowledging the distinction between family and household. The key question here is how different kinds of transfers (emotional, practical, financial) are affected by proximity versus distance. Specific attention is paid to transnational families (where members live across country borders). Second, new insights can be gained from comparing and contrasting different theoretical models (altruism, exchange, norms) for why members of different generations help each other. The key question is whether family members help each other for different reasons, depending on the country in which they live. Third, new insights can be gained from taking a multigenerational view of family ties, across life phases. The key question is that of the necessity of family members to provide for the young and the old, given limited public safety nets. Fourth, insights can be gained from a more balanced treatment of men and women across topics in the research literature on families. The key question is whether the “matrifocal tilt” that is often observed is an artifact of having neglected men in intergenerational research.