The Differences in Perceived Social Support Potential and Perceived Additional Support between Permanently Childless Individuals and Parents

Sebastian Schnettler, Yale University

Research on intergenerational relationships has shown that children and partners are the most important support persons in old age. Less attention has been paid to the situation of older childless individuals. Applying the concept of intergenerational solidarity, here I aim to compare perceived social support potential and support need of childless individuals and parents. Both dimensions are assumed to be important in contributing to well-being. Analyses are based on the German Aging Survey, which provides almost 8,000 cases of persons aged 40-85, thus allowing differentiated analyses of the childless. The results show that the older childless are not a homogeneous, deprived group, as is often assumed, but that other factors can partially compensate the lack of children. Socioeconomic status has a positive effect only in regard to cognitive support, possibly because higher status jobs give access to information from larger weak-tie networks.

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Presented in Session 41: Family and Aging