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Home > Arhiva > 2017 > Numar: 1 > Parental Break up and Long Term Consequences on Support Behavior to Aging Parents in Europe

 Parental Break up and Long Term Consequences on Support Behavior to Aging Parents in Europe

  • Cornelia Mureşan (Babeş-Bolyai University, Faculty of Sociology and Social Work, Centre for Population Studies, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, E-mail:

With rising parental divorce and union instability, proportion of children growing up without their both biological parents increases continuously, and this could generate both weaker filial responsibilities and less actual support given to aging parents. Thus, divorced parents may become more vulnerable in their old age than those from intact families. Adopting a life-course perspective, this study aims to investigate how parental break up influences filial responsibility and helping behavior of adult offspring. Using Generations and Gender Surveys data from ten European countries (7 from Central and Eastern and 3 from Western Europe) we model, first, the strength of filial norms among adult children and, then, the actual support given to mothers and to fathers taken separately. Our main hypothesis is that family experience during childhood has an impact both on filial responsibilities and on helping behavior, but mothers benefit more of the actual support. We distinguish between three types of support offered (practical, material and emotional) and we control for other known determinants as: children’s own family situation, their personal characteristics (age, education, and religiosity) and practical possibilities (health problems, employment, time distance to parents’ residence, number of siblings alive). Parental needs and actual support received from parents are also controlled. Our results show that norms of filial obligation weaken if children experience parental break up, while the helping behavior is affected in a more complex way. Only instrumental care to divorced aging fathers is negatively affected, but no other types of support toward them are diminished. On the contrary, we rather witness strengthening emotional ties with both divorced parents, and increased willingness to helping financially divorced mothers. Neither instrumental care for mothers nor financial help to fathers are affected (positively or negatively) by the parental divorce.

Keywords: parental breakup, filial norms, support behavior to aging parents, Generations and Gender Programme, Europe