Intergenerational solidarity and plans for care in later life families


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Intergenerational solidarity and plans for care in later life families
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xi, 212 leaves : ; 29 cm.
Netzer, Julie K
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Sociology thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Sociology -- UF
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1994.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 199-211).
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Also available online.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Julie K. Netzer.
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University of Florida
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I gratefully acknowledge the encouragement and support

of many people, both professional and individual, in

completing my doctoral dissertation and graduate career.

While many deserve recognition, I am avoiding a tedious

narrative of every person who has touched my life. I

apologize to those I have not mentioned.

First, exceptional thanks and appreciation are due my

mentor and committee chair, Dr. Gary Lee. I am grateful

beyond measure for his never-ending patience, support,

encouragement, understanding, and tact. Without his help

and guidance, I would not be at this important point in my

life. He has freely given me his knowledge and expertise,

allowing me to grow and explore and become my own

sociologist, not what he thought I should be. Now it is my

turn to stand on my own two feet.

Second, my professors and colleagues at the University

of Florida deserve particular recognition. To my committee

members, Drs. John Henretta, Karen Seccombe, Hernan Vera,

Otto von Mering, and Barbara Zsembik, I am forever indebted

for the years of academic support, direction, counsel, and

good humor that they have given freely to me, as well as

nonacademic pleasures, fun, friendships, and comfort. I


sincerely appreciate all of their efforts on my behalf. I

feel as though my graduate education has been a true

collaborative venture and that I could not have assembled a

better group of professionals to assist me.

I also give special gratitude to Dr. Raymond Coward for

his continued support. He has been a treasured employer,

unselfishly sharing his expertise and knowledge, as he has

guided me along in my academic career. He has generously

provided me with the data, from a Center for Rural Health

and Aging project, for my dissertation and with multiple

opportunities to gain experience as a researcher. Now, we

initiate a fresh chapter in which he will become my mentor,

as I begin my postdoctoral fellowship. I look forward to

this new challenge and opportunity.

And, Ms. Nadine Gillis deserves a special word of

appreciation for her expert assistance in preparing this

manuscript and her endless patience and kindness, over the

years, in dealing with sometimes neurotic, anxious, and

irrational graduate students and others. She is a genuine

asset to the Department of Sociology.

Third, special thanks go to my informal support network

of dear friends, especially Terry Smith, Debi VanAusdale,

Tiffany Hogan, and Cheryl Amey-Brown. Chalk one up for

middle-aged women and sisterhood, indeed! There are many

times that I would have fallen without their love and



Fourth, I thank my daughter, Maria. Her enthusiasm for

my academic pursuits and her belief in me have been an

inspiration and have kept me going when I became

discouraged. I am, as I have told her often, immeasurably

proud of her. As she pursues her own personal and academic

achievements, I hope she remembers that as long as she

believes in herself, anything is possible.

Lastly, I must give special recognition and express

deep appreciation to Gilman Marshall, who taught me perhaps

the most important lesson of all--that of the mystery,

imagination, and renewal of soul. Indeed, for soulful

living, we need an end in order to have a beginning.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ...................................... ii

LIST OF TABLES .................................. ...... vii

LIST OF FIGURES ....................................... viii

ABSTRACT .............................................. ix


1 INTRODUCTION ................................ 1

Intergenerational Relations...................... 7
Intergenerational Exchanges, Aid, and
Caregiving............................. 9
Synthesis of the Two Literatures............ 11
Statement of the Problem..................... 13
Organization of the Study.................... 17

FRAMEWORK ................................ 20

Theoretical Framework ....................... 20
Historical Origin of the Theory of Family
Solidarity ............................. 21
Conceptual Framework of the Family
Solidarity Model.......................... 26
Literature Review, Hypotheses, and Proposed
General Model............................... 34
Functional Solidarity.................. 34
Associational Solidarity............... 39
Affectional Solidarity..................... 42
Normative Solidarity....................... 46
Structural Solidarity...................... 52
Sociodemographic Factors................... 60

3 METHODS...................................... .... 78

Sampling and Procedures...................... 78
Measurement of Variables and Concepts....... 84
Outcome Variables....................... 87

Predictor Variables..................... 92
Statistical Analyses......................... 102

4 RESULTS..................................... 107

Bivariate Correlations...................... 107
Functional Solidarity ................. 112
Associational Solidarity............... 112
Affectional Solidarity ................ 112
Normative Solidarity................... 113
Structural Solidarity ................. 114
Sociodemographic Factors............... 116
Path Analysis .............................. 123

5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS.................. 147

Overview of the Problem...................... 147
Discussion ..................................... 149
Study Limitations and Recommendations for
Future Research........................... 165
Conclusion.................................. 172


REFERENCES............................................. 199

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH..................................... 212


Table page

1 Six Elements of Family Solidarity, with
Nominal Definitions and Examples of
Empirical Indicators.......................... 28

2 Factor Loadings for Affectional Solidarity... 95

3 Reliability Correlation Matrix for Affectional
Solidarity Scale.............................. 96

4 Factor Loadings for Normative Solidarity..... 98

5 Reliability Correlation Matrix for Normative
Solidarity Scale............................... 99

6 Means, Standard Deviations, and Ranges
or Codings for Study Variables................ 103

7 The Matrix of Zero-Order Pearson Product-
Moment Correlation Coefficients (List-Wise
Deletion) ..................................... 108

8 Effects of Predictor Variables on Plans for
Care .......................................... 125

9 Effects of Predictor Variables on Parental
Aid Given to Focal Child ...................... 131

10 Effects of Predictor Variables on Parental
Aid Received from Focal Child................. 136

11 Effects of Predictor Variables on
Associational Solidarity ...................... 140

12 Effects of Predictor Variables on
Affectional Solidarity ........................ 143

13 Effects of Predictor Variables on
Normative Solidarity .......................... 145



Figure page

1 Elements of Revised Family Solidarity Model.. 33

2 Proposed Family Solidarity Model............. 35


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy


Julie K. Netzer
December 1994

Chairman: Gary R. Lee, Ph.D.
Major Department: Sociology

This study investigates how factors, derived from the

theory of family solidarity, influence the plans that older

parents have for care in later life. The theory proposes

several dimensions that are crucial to intergenerational

solidarity in later life families. In this study, these are

(1) the intergenerational exchange of aid that older parents

experience (functional solidarity); (2) frequency of contact

between older parents and their adult children

associationall solidarity); (3) the affective sentiments

that older parents attach to their relations with children

(affectional solidarity); (4) older parents' filial

responsibility expectations (normative solidarity); and (5)

older parents' opportunity structures for interaction

through family size, parental health, and proximity to

children (structural solidarity). A third component is

added to functional solidarity as the major outcome of


family solidarity. This element is termed plans for care

and is defined as older parents' expectations for assistance

or caregiving from children, in the event of illness or

infirmity. A number of sociodemographic characteristics,

such as age, gender, race, marital status, area of

residence, income, and education are also included.

A model is developed regarding direct and indirect

effects of these dimensions of family solidarity upon older

parents' plans for care. The data used to test the model

are collected from a sample of 362 Kansas parents, aged 65

and older. Scales are developed to measure associational,

affectional, and normative solidarity using factor analysis

where necessary. Statistical analyses also include

correlations and path analyses.

Contrary to our hypotheses, intergenerational exchanges

of aid have no effects on older parents' plans for care.

However, normative solidarity, being employed, associational

solidarity, and family size have direct and positive effects

on plans for care. Proximity to the focal child indirectly

affects older parents' plans for care through associational

solidarity. Relationships between other predictor variables

in the model and the intergenerational exchange of aid are

also discussed. The study concludes that both proximity and

associational solidarity are key elements in family

solidarity and that older parents' plans for care are

independent from other forms of functional solidarity but,

nonetheless, contribute to solidarity in later life



Two of the most researched areas in recent years in

family sociology and social gerontology have been the nature

of intergenerational relations in later life families and

family caregiving. Changes in demographic trends and public

policy in the United States certainly justify concern about

these issues as questions are raised about the willingness

and competency of family caregivers and the effects of these

matters on intergenerational relations in an increasingly

complex medical and social world. Typically in the social

science literature, four interrelated concerns about these

areas receive the most emphasis: (1) increased proportions

and numbers of elders, especially those over the age of 85,

and how these elders will be cared for if needed in their

later years (Lee, 1987; Mancini & Blieszner, 1989; O'Bryant,

1988; Shanas, 1979; Stoller, 1983); (2) stabilized birth

rates (number of births per 1,000 population) and decreased

fertility rates (number of births per 1,000 women age 15-44)

and the effects of these trends on family relations and the

availability of caregivers relative to impaired elders

(Sussman, 1991; Soldo & Agree, 1988); (3) increased numbers

of women participating in the labor force and the


willingness of these women to continue to provide the

majority of care to elderly parents (Lang & Brody, 1983;

Stoller, 1983); and (4) a rediscovery of families as less

expensive alternatives to government-supported social and

health care programs by policymakers concerned with the

rising costs of these programs (Glazer, 1990; Abel, 1991;

Stoller, 1983; Sussman, 1991).

Each of these circumstances is having, and will have in

the future, a tremendous impact on elders and their

intergenerational relationships as greater proportions of

our population enter old age due to a continued increase in

life expectancy (Lee, 1987). Likely to be affected are

issues related to the provision of formal and informal

caregiving to elders, as well as the more pragmatic concerns

of family policymakers, practitioners, educators, and health

care professionals for older persons. Family stress is also

likely to intensify as the numbers of elderly family members

continue to increase, unless government and private sector

groups provide adequate and accessible support for families

(Mancini & Simon, 1984). Such programs as work-related

family leave policies; increased Medicare and Medicaid

benefits for home health care and respite services; and

housing and nursing home environments that meet the specific

physical, economic, and social needs of elderly populations

and their families are all areas where attention needs to be



Further complicating these outside influences on family

relations are more internal concerns, such as the amounts

and types of care that adult children provide to aging

parents, the amounts and types of stress and burden that

these children experience, and reciprocity in family

exchanges of support. These issues are frequently examined

in the family sociology and social gerontology fields;

however, as Mancini and Simon (1984) point out, while much

of the research interest in these fields is on actual

support patterns, there is much less attention paid to the

support expectations of elderly family members. The main

objective of this study is to focus on that area of family


One segment of support expectations that has received

some attention is that of "filial responsibility

expectations" or an older parent's beliefs about the

obligations that adult children have toward them (Seelbach,

1977, 1978; Seelbach & Sauer, 1977). Conceptually, filial

responsibility expectations refer to a more generalized,

universalistic notion of what persons feel that "adult

children" should do for "elderly parents" than to support

expectations that individuals have for their own children

(Lee et al., 1994a).

Another part of support expectations might be the

particular expectations for support or care that elders have

in the event that they were to become ill or infirm.


Blieszner and Mancini (1987) address these more specific

expectations for assistance, such as emergency situations.

Adult children are viewed by older parents as occupying

pivotal roles in the provision of aid, assistance, and

support to them in these extreme situations (Blieszner &

Mancini, 1987; Seelbach, 1978), yet this is not a topic that

is discussed between them with any regularity, substance, or

ease (Blieszner & Mancini, 1987). While older parents

express the desire to maintain their independence and to not

be a burden to their children, and are concerned about their

ability to find affordable and suitable forms of care on

their own, most hope that if they are ever in an extreme

situation, they could turn to their children for help.

However, they find it difficult to talk about these

important issues with their children (Blieszner & Mancini,


A crucial concern, not only for the well-being of

elderly parents, but also for the well-being of the family

as a whole, is the question of whom elders think or expect

will provide care to them, if they should need it in the

future. Elderly parents need to be helped in maintaining

their dignity and need for independence as long as possible.

However, attention also needs to be paid to their

expectations and plans for care, if they need it, so that

appropriate outside supports are in place and provided to

family caregivers, benefitting both the elders and their


family members. If an elder's expectations for care are not

able to be met, perhaps because available adult children

live great distances from their parents or because family

relations are poor, then alternative arrangements need to be


Further, this lack of attention to the plans for care,

of older parents for aid and assistance from their adult

children has left us with insufficient or no information as

to the factors associated with such expectations or plans.

While we have investigated variations in universalistic

notions of filial responsibility expectations, through such

situations as financial assistance and living arrangements,

it is not unreasonable to suspect that older parents will

have varying hypothetical plans for care, depending upon the

seriousness of the situation or their own particularistic

circumstances. For example, given an elder's desire for

independence, planning to live with an adult child because

of frailty may not be an option because it is demeaning to

the elder or not practical because the elder's children do

not live nearby. Thus, the elder may have expectations of

moving to a planned elderly housing project or congregate

living facility, when needed, and these plans may be less

humiliating or more sensible for the elder. Older parents

may feel that it is appropriate to ask an adult child to

take them to a doctor's appointment, but improper for an

adult child to provide them help with tasks of daily living.


These elders may decide that hiring a home care aide, if

they should need such help, would be more suitable for them.

Or the anticipated plans for care that older adults have may

be related to current exchange patterns of intergenerational

aid. That is, the amount of support (financial, emotional,

and so on) that older parents presently receive from or give

to their children could certainly influence the plans that

these elders have for care in the future. If there is not

much exchange of intergenerational assistance at present

(perhaps because of bad family relations or the inadequate

financial circumstances of the children), older parents may

envision a time when they would need to plan for help from

non-family members or more formal caregiving services rather

than their children.

Thus, it is evident that differences in plans for care

need to be examined across varying circumstances and

situations. And, until we have a more complete

understanding of the place of elders' plans for care in

caregiving outcomes, we will be unable to thoroughly

investigate all aspects of family solidarity and, on a more

practical level, to understand how family solidarity can

influence service provision to elders, the services that are

desired and essential to assure the well-being of all

elders, and the recommendations necessary to be made to

policymakers with regard to these services and the


importance of the family in making caregiving decisions for

older adults.

While much of what has been discussed thus far is

highly speculative, there are two separate literatures which

indirectly relate to, and may inform, these issues of

intergenerational support and which examine common beliefs

and practices regarding family relations. The first

addresses intergenerational relations. The second pertains

to older persons as one of the primary recipients of

intergenerational exchanges, aid, and caregiving (Treas &

Bengtson, 1987). Each of these issues will be addressed


Intergenerational Relations

Much of the sociological and gerontological interest in

intergenerational relations has concerned whether, in

industrialized societies, elders are alienated from their

families, as well as the interrelated notion of the

"isolated" nuclear family and its effects on familial

relationships (Stoller, 1983; Mancini & Blieszner, 1989;

Parsons & Bales, 1955). While it is true that most elders

live independently from their offspring, this does not mean

that familial interactions are nonexistent (Treas &

Bengtson, 1987) or that, because of geographical mobility in

our society today, family members live great distances from

each other. In fact, existing survey data reveal that there


is a high degree of interaction in the form of telephoning

and visiting between older parents and their adult children

(Aldous, 1987; Rossi & Rossi, 1990) and proximate living

among family members (Crimmins & Ingegneri, 1990).

It is also generally accepted in the social science

literature that families provide between 70 and 80 percent

of long-term care to aging family members (Stone et. al,

1987; Abel, 1991). As Stoller (1983) suggests, this points

out the strength of familial ties, the importance of family

members in caring for frail elders, and the reluctance of

family members to resort to institutionalization of elders.

These findings may well pertain to the plans that elderly

parents have for care, if they need it in the future.

On the other hand, it is estimated that only about 10

to 13 percent of noninstitutionalized elders are actually

impaired and frail enough to require home-care assistance at

any one time (Shanas, 1974; Stoller, 1983; Stone et al.,

1987; Bumpass, 1990). Thus, this body of literature finds

that the vast majority of elders are healthy and wealthy

enough to maintain their normatively valued independent

living. These findings suggest that, on the whole, well-

educated, financially secure, and healthy elderly parents

are satisfied with routine interactions with their children

and expect help from them only under extreme circumstances,

such as deteriorating health or physical impairments


(Blieszner & Mancini, 1987; Mancini & Blieszner, 1989;

Seelbach, 1978; Mancini & Simon, 1984).

While much variation does exist in intergenerational

relations (Lee, 1985), contrary to popular myths and beliefs

about close family members, intergenerational bonding such

as that between parents and their children, on the whole,

seems to be firmly entrenched.

Intergenerational Exchanges. Aid. and Caregiving

The giving and receiving of aid and assistance among

family members is a key aspect of the interdependence among

family members (Hancock et al., 1988). The nature of this

aid and assistance seems to vary by family position; that

is, whether one is a parent or a child. The help that

parents give to their adult children tends to be more

instrumental (i.e., financial, advice, babysitting) while

the assistance that adult children give to parents, while

also being instrumental, tends to be of a more personal

nature, in the form of caregiving (Rossi & Rossi, 1990). It

has been fairly well established in the caregiving

literature that the family is the principal provider of aid,

assistance, support, or caregiving to its elderly members.

For elders who are married, the spouse is the "first line"

of support (Shanas, 1979; Stoller, 1983; Treas & Bengtson,

1987; Coward et al., 1992). When a spouse is unavailable,

adult children, especially daughters, are the ones who


primarily provide assistance to an elderly parent (Stoller,

1983; Abel, 1991).

In an innovative study of intergenerational aid and

caregiving, Walker and Pratt (1991) argue that our

conceptualizations of the exchange of aid between family

members, especially that given to older parents by their

adult children, need to be expanded; that is, giving

assistance to family members is a fairly established pattern

in family relations and caregiving should be viewed as an

escalation or a continuum of those already existing patterns

of intergenerational aid-giving. This notion, however, has

not been tested to our knowledge within the realm of family

relations nor has it been extended into the particularistic

area of elderly parents' plans for care. This could be

accomplished by asking elderly parents about their familial

relations, any assistance they give to and receive from

family members, and whom they would expect to help them

under varying circumstances, if they should need it. It may

be that high levels of intergenerational support exchange

will result in an increased likelihood of a parent choosing

an adult child for help, if and when needed.

The exchange of money, goods, and services is

fundamental to and interrelated with intergenerational

relations. However, because of the increased complexity of

our modern social world, there seem to be implicit

obligations for family members to help each other in times


of need, as well as explicit commitments that may prevent

assistance from being forthcoming, such as distance from an

elderly parent, employment of the adult child, or unpleasant

relations between a parent and a child (Allan, 1988; Abel,

1991; Hamon, 1992; Rossi & Rossi, 1990). These exchange

elements are germane to and may be extended into the issue

of elderly parents' plans for care.

Synthesis of the Two Literatures

This study will focus on intergenerational aspects of

exchange, assistance, and plans for care and their place in

family relations from the point of view of elderly parents.

This will necessitate (1) an attempt at synthesizing the

information from the theoretical and empirical literatures

on family relations and intergenerational exchanges of aid;

(2) developing an innovative model to explain associations

between an elderly parent's family relations and the

exchange dynamics and plans for care in those relations; and

(3) formally testing the new model.

Theory development and expansion are crucial parts of

scientific inquiry and, beyond descriptions of social

phenomena, provide testable explanations for why social

events occur. The giving and receiving of aid between

generations have long been thought to be key elements that

particularly hold family groups together, strengthening the

bonds of solidarity or sense or 'we-ness,' in relationships


with people (Roberts et al., 1991; Rossi & Rossi, 1990;

Scanzoni & Marsiglio, 1993).

These notions of familial solidarity, mutual

dependence, and exchange have been linked in a theory of

family solidarity in order to explain the variation in these

aspects of family relations. This theory comes out of a

long sociological tradition of study in the exchange of

money, goods, and services between groups, group

cohesiveness, and solidarity in small groups. The theory

itself has been developed and modified by Bengtson, Olander,

and Haddad (1976) and their colleagues (e.g., Bengtson &

Roberts, 1991; Bengtson & Schrader, 1982; Mangen et al.,

1988; Roberts & Bengtson, 1990) and tested by such

researchers as Atkinson, Kivett, and Campbell (1986).

While a complete explanation of the theory of family

solidarity goes beyond the scope of this chapter, in its

most basic and current form, the theory postulates that

intergenerational family solidarity between aging parents

and their adult children is a multidimensional construct

composed of the independent elements of (1) generational

consensus (or agreement), (2) intergenerational association

(or contact), and (3) affection (or emotional attachment)

(Bengtson & Roberts, 1991; Roberts & Bengtson, 1990). These

elements of family solidarity are said to be affected either

directly or indirectly by (4) functional (or exchange), (5)

normative (or norms of filial obligation), and (6)


structural (or opportunity structure for interaction)

solidarities (Bengtson & Roberts, 1991).

Statement of the Problem

The purpose of this study will be to examine, with a

sample of elderly parents, how and in what ways family

structure (structural solidarity), norms of filial

obligations (normative solidarity), perceived affection

between parents and their adult children (affectional

solidarity), and intergenerational contact associationall

solidarity) influence intergenerational exchanges of aid and

older parents perceptions of whom would assist them in times

of need (functional solidarity).

The use of this theory will allow us to address several

issues and to expand the theory into other areas of family

relations, such as family caregiving. In order to

demonstrate how the two literatures on intergenerational

relations and exchange of aid are connected, we must expand

or extend currently existing definitions of functional

solidarity in the theory of family solidarity. We

conceptualize three dimensions to functional solidarity: the

(1) the giving and (2) receiving of intergenerational aid,

which are the exchange elements of functional solidarity,

and over and above the exchange, (3) the plans that elders

have for care should they become ill or infirm. We envision

that an older parent's plans for care from children will tap


into the issue of the particularistic situations of elderly

parents and their plans for care, if needed, rather than

relying on more universalistic concepts of filial

responsibility expectations. That is, we differentiate

generalized norms of filial responsibility from anticipated

aid or, as we term it, plans for care. Based on current

patterns of exchange, we expect that the intergenerational

assistance that older parents and their children experience

in the present should inform their future exchanges.

This study will make several contributions to the

extant literature on family relations and family caregiving.

First, we will be able to determine if current

conceptualizations of functional solidarity sufficiently

capture the complexity of intergenerational assistance, and

ultimately, family solidarity. We suggest that functional

solidarity is more than the exchange elements of aid and

assistance and should include the plans that older parents

have for caregiving, if needed in the future, as a final

outcome in the solidarity of later life families.

We view the exchange portions of functional solidarity

as behavioral and plans for care as cognitive dimensions of

functional solidarity. Approaching functional solidarity in

this manner will allow us to expand on the elements in the

family solidarity theoretical model by extending the theory

into the issue of parents' plans for assistance or

caregiving from their adult children, should they need it,


above and beyond any intergenerational exchange of aid and

assistance they are giving or receiving from their children.

That is, we will define and measure elderly parents' plans

for care as a dimension of functional solidarity and as an

outcome of preexisting patterns of intergenerational aid.

To our knowledge, other than the Walker and Pratt (1991)

theory and test of viewing caregiving as a continuum of aid

rather than a distinctly different aspect of familial

relations, the influence of intergenerational exchanges of

aid on older parents' plans for care has not been formally

tested nor addressed in other studies of intergenerational

aid and assistance.

Second, this study will allow us to formally

incorporate functional solidarity into a specified,

theoretical model of family solidarity. Bengtson and his

colleagues, while never formally testing the relationship

between functional solidarity and the other dimensions of

family solidarity, have suggested that a logical step in the

development of the theory is to examine the exchange

dynamics in intergenerational relations as they relate to

family norms, affection, and association (Bengtson &

Roberts, 1991). That is, in what way do structural factors,

norms, affection, and association influence levels of

intergenerational resource exchange? Moreover, with the

addition of plans for care, we will be able to go beyond


exchange dynamics to examine how exchange influences elders'

plans for care, should they need it.

Related to this discussion, the use of the family

solidarity theory will enable us to address the issue of

model specification (Bengtson & Roberts, 1991; Roberts &

Bengtson, 1990). For example, from the models that have

evolved out of the theory of family solidarity (i.e.,

Roberts et al., 1991; Rossi & Rossi, 1990), it is not clear

whether functional solidarity is an antecedent or a

consequence of associational solidarity or whether, for

example, the effect of normative solidarity on functional

solidarity is direct, indirect, or both.

Some scholars argue that affectional and associational

solidarity are most representative of family solidarity

(Bengtson & Roberts, 1991; Roberts and Bengtson, 1990;

Roberts et al., 1991). Others argue that what parents and

their children do for each other is a complicated matter

than includes numerous factors, such as proximately to each

other, feelings about each other, the needs of individual

family members, or competing demands on family members

(Rossi & Rossi, 1990). These scholars maintain that

families are quite different from groups that are formed

with no prior knowledge of each other. In the former case,

solidarity and behaviors of individual members are affected

by longstanding characteristics of the relationships between

members and, therefore, in families sentiment determines


behavior; in the latter case, there is not a prior knowledge

of each other and, hence, group norms and subjective

feelings about members of the group form over time through

interaction and shared activities and behavior is what

determines sentiment (Rossi & Rossi, 1990). Nonetheless, it

is clear that these issues of where each of the dimensions

"fit" in the overall model of family solidarity need further


Organization of the Study

This study is quantitative in nature and draws upon

primary data analyses of a telephone survey used in a

concurrent larger study of filial responsibility

expectations among older adults in the U.S. That project

was conducted at the Center on Rural Health and Aging at the

University of Florida, under a grant from the National

Institutes on Aging (AG09649). The present investigation is

a segment of the more comprehensive project and is divided

into five chapters, including this introductory chapter.

The second chapter of this inquiry comprises a

comprehensive review of several sets of literature. First,

the literature on the theory of family solidarity is

examined, including the historical origins of the theory,

current developments in the construction of the theory, and

the constructs or elements that constitute the theoretical

model of family solidarity. Second, the literatures on


family relations and intergenerational exchange of aid and

assistance are reviewed to delineate the factors affecting

the various components in the theory of family solidarity.

This facilitates the development of the proposed theoretical

model of family solidarity used in this study and testable


The third chapter discusses the methodological

procedures used in this research. Included are the sampling

procedures and a demographic profile of the survey

respondents. Additionally, conceptual frameworks and

measures of the predictor and outcome variables are

addressed, as well as the statistical analyses used.

The fourth chapter will present formal testing of the

theoretical model used in this study. The data are analyzed

with correlations and path analyses. The chapter reports

the results of the bivariate and multivariate statistical

analyses and possible explanations for the findings.

Finally, the fifth chapter is a summary, discussion,

and conclusion of the findings. In addition, limitations

and implications of the study are presented. These

encompass such issues as theoretical, methodological, and

statistical concerns in studying family solidarity.

Suggestions for future research are also proposed. Included

are the effects of family solidarity on older parents' well-

being, the importance of studying both generations and

family histories with regard to family solidarity, as well


as the implications of statistical and measurement issues on

the study results and the ethical and moral implications of

family support and solidarity.


Theoretical Framework

Theory development and research in the area of

intergenerational solidarity has enjoyed a long tradition of

scholarly effort. Much of this work pertains to one of the

most basic concerns in sociology: the nature of the social

bond (Nisbet, 1970). The concept of the social bond has

been an important construct which has guided much of

sociological theory and research (Bengtson & Mangen, 1988)

as sociologists (and others) sought to answer the question

of how social order is possible and the nature of the ties

that bind individuals to groups (Durkheim, 1893/1984;

Hobbes, 1651/1950; McChesney & Bengtson, 1988).

In the family and social gerontology realms, social

bonding is particularly germane to relations between parents

and their children. What is it that causes some parents and

children to seem closer than others? Why do members of one

family seem devoted to each other, seek each other out, and

enjoy a wide range of activities together while members of

other families act like completely disconnected individuals,

related only by blood? Why are some families or individual


family members more willing to provide long-term care to

elderly family members than are others?

In attempting to answer questions such as these, family

sociologists and gerontologists have relied upon the works

of various social theorists concerned with elements of group

harmony and order. These theorists, some of whom will be

discussed in more detail in the section below, have termed

the force or property that is responsible for group

cohesiveness, familial or otherwise, as solidarity, bonding,

cohesion, or integration. In keeping with the theoretical

framework upon which this study is based, the term family

solidarity (or solidarity) will be used. The following

section presents the historical underpinnings of one theory

of family solidarity. From there, the formal theoretical

model used in this study is delineated and explained.

Historical Origins of the Theory of Family Solidarity

The theory of family solidarity (Bengtson & Schrader,

1982; Roberts & Bengtson, 1990; Bengtson & Roberts, 1991)

seeks to explain how intergenerational (parent-child)

solidarity is formed and maintained. The development of the

theory has been an on-going project since the 1970s

(Bengtson et al., 1976). It is based on Durkheim's

(1893/1984) notions of mechanical and organic solidarity,

Tbnnies' (1887/1957) ideas on gemeinschaft and gesellschaft,

Parsons' (1951) and Parsons' and Bales' (1955) work on the


cohesiveness of social systems, and the work of Heider

(1958) and Homans (1950, 1961) on the social psychology of

group membership. Each of these individual's work is

interconnected with family solidarity theory and form the

dimensions of the conceptual framework.

Mechanical and organic solidarity. As were many social

thinkers and theorists of the time, Emile Durkheim was

concerned with the macro conditions that made social order

and solidarity possible in light of individual personalities

(Coser, 1984). His scientific observations of simple

homogeneous societies and modern heterogenous societies led

him, in The Division of Labor in Society (1893/1984), to

differentiate between two types of solidarity, mechanical

and organic. In simple societies, Durkheim argued there

existed mechanical solidarity or a collective consciousness

which allowed individuals to bond together and to form a

determinate system of beliefs and sentiments. This system

we would call society, with its shared norms and values. In

more modern societies, due to the more complex division of

labor present in them, Durkheim concluded that group members

are both independent and interrelated with each other,

similar to biological organisms. In these societies, then,

individuals (the parts) serve to bind the society (the

whole) together and maintain its existence. This type of

solidarity Durkheim termed organic.


Durkheim, however, did not argue that one type of

solidarity must exist to the exclusion of the other. In

fact, he argued that in order for society to remain

harmoniously cohesive and functioning both mechanical and

organic solidarity must be present. As Roberts et al.

(1991) point out, what Durkheim identifies then is two bases

of solidarity, normative prescriptions toward group cohesion

and functional interdependency of group members.

Gemeinschaft and gesellschaft. Along a similar vein as

Durkheim, Ferdinand T6nnies (1887/1957) distinguished

between highly cohesive social relations based on rules of

reciprocity and mutual obligation, such as those found among

family members and simpler societies, and relations based on

contractual consensus and voluntary exchange, such as those

in more impersonal, weakly bonded complex societies and

groups. T6nnies termed these societal types as gemeinschaft

and gesellschaft, respectively. While maintaining normative

prescriptions and obligation as part of group solidarity, he

adds consensus among group members over "rules" of exchange

to the theoretical model; that is, social bonds are only

possible when social differentiation and disparity are at a

minimum (Coser, 1984; Roberts et al., 1991).

Solidarity in social systems. Most of Talcott Parsons'

work dealt with the factors that were fundamental to the

continued existence of society. These factors include

socially accepted norms, values, goals, social order, and

normative standards, all of which allow people to look at

the world in similar ways (i.e., through norms and values)

in order for society's members to predict what others will

think and do. Society needs shared, articulated sets of

goals, such as the success of the family, in order to

maintain equilibrium and order (Aberle, 1967; Ritzer, 1992).

Parsons' interest in social solidarity also engendered an

interest in the function of the family for general society.

In Parsons' view, in order for any social system to

continue, individual members must be integrated into that

system (Parsons, 1951). One place where this assimilation

process could occur was in the family, through the

transmission and internalization of societal norms and

values (Parsons, 1955). Two reciprocal family roles were

necessary for societal integration to occur: the

instrumental role of supporting the family's physical needs

and the expressive role of supporting the family's emotional

needs (Parsons, 1955; McChesney & Bengtson, 1988). While

perhaps not explicitly defining it as such, Parsons seems to

be alluding to the exchange of resources among family

members through the expression of these two functional

roles. Thus, in addition to depicting the importance of

norms and values to social solidarity, Parsons also

contributes a more functional aspect of solidarity, that of

resource exchange or functional solidarity (McChesney &

Bengtson, 1988).


Group membership. Resource exchange is central to the

group dynamics work of Homans (1950, 1961) and Heider (1958)

and both specify, on a more micro, social psychological

level, the importance of it to social solidarity in terms of

mutual reinforcement in interpersonal relationships

(Bengtson & Roberts, 1991). In their view, solidarity in

society is an individual's needs for rewards from others

(Homans, 1961; Bengtson et al., 1976). These rewards, and

hence social solidarity, are met through mutual sentiment

(affection/liking), interaction (association/contact),

similarity (consensus), and norms of group membership, as

well as similarity (consensus) of those norms among group

members (Bengtson & Roberts, 1991; Heider, 1958; Homans,

1950). Unlike the more macro approaches of Durkheim,

T6nnies, and Parsons and Bales, however, these social

psychologists emphasized and recognized the importance of

mutual affection and interaction among group members to

solidarity, as well as incorporating the more precise notion

of similarity of interests (as opposed to the general notion

of consensus) among group members as increasing solidarity

(Roberts et al., 1991). Thus, if the family is viewed as a

special type of small group, in addition to normative,

functional, and consensual solidarity, Homans and Heider add

associational and affectual solidarity to the theoretical

framework of the family solidarity theory.


In sum, five elements of solidarity have been

identified from sociological and social psychological

constructs. The elements are (1) association or

interaction, (2) affection or mutual liking, (3) consensus

or similarity, (4) functional interdependence, and (5)

normative integration (Roberts et al., 1991). These

elements form the conceptual framework for the family

solidarity model.

Conceptual Framework of the Family Solidarity Model

In 1974, attempts were begun to conceptualize the

nature of intergenerational cohesion in aging families

(Black & Bengtson, 1974). In that early paper, Black and

Bengtson define the components of a unidimensional meta-

construct, family solidarity, as affectional, associational,

and attitudinal consensus. Using pilot data, these

interdependent elements were found to be essential to

cohesive parent-child relationships and conformed to their

conceptualization of family solidarity, both intra- and

intergenerationally (Bengtson et al., 1976; Black &

Bengtson, 1974; Roberts & Bengtson, 1990).

A formal model of family solidarity in aging families

was then proposed in 1976 (Bengtson et al., 1976). In this

model, solidarity between older and middle generations, in

the form of consensus, affection, and association, was

causally linked with nine constructs such as


intergenerational helping behaviors, residential

propinquity, dependency needs of the older generation,

filial responsibility norms, and intergenerational

communication via letters and telephone.

Further refinement of the model was undertaken in 1982

(Bengtson & Schrader, 1982) and measures of the constructs

were even more developed in 1988 (Mangen et al., 1988;

McChesney & Bengtson, 1988). Table 1 presents the ensuing

dimensions defined as essential to family solidarity, with

nominal definitions and empirical indicators of each. The

dimensions include (1) association or contact, (2) affection

or emotional attachment, (3) consensus or agreement, (4)

function or patterns of intergenerational support or

resource sharing, (5) filial expectation norms or individual

obligations to the family, and (6) opportunity structure for

family interaction or the availability of family members for

interaction as influenced by such factors as propinquity,

fertility, and health of family members (Bengtson & Roberts,

1991). It should be noted that consensual solidarity deals

with the general degree of agreement of family members on

such issues as religiosity, marriage norms, and political

conservatism, while normative solidarity addresses the

strength of commitment of family members to family

obligations and roles (Landry & Martin, 1988).

In the 1982 iteration of the model, as well as later

versions, solidarity between generations is emphasized.











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That is, Bengtson and his colleagues argue for using the

family as the unit of analysis rather than individual family

members. Mangen (1988) terms these the lineage and the

generational levels, respectively. Using individuals as the

unit of analysis is seen as problematic because (1) it

cannot take into account the generational position of the

individual; that is, incomplete or inaccurate information

may be obtained if only specific individuals are measured

because that person can occupy many family positions (i.e.,

mother, daughter, and granddaughter in a three-generation

family); and (2) the perceptual biases of a single family

member can affect the validity of such studies (Mangen,


To eliminate or control these potential problems,

Bengtson and his colleagues propose a model in which the

various elements of family solidarity are examined across

generations. Thus, structural characteristics such as

proximity to family members, number of living children,

grandchildren, and parents, and composition of the

individual's household are examined. Associational

solidarity is measured by asking each generation about

frequency of interaction via telephone or letter writing and

the frequency and quantity of specific activities in which

family members engage. Affectual, consensual, functional,

and normative solidarity are all measured by asking both the

elderly parent and the children about, for example,


agreement on certain issues and attitudes, such as political

and religious ideologies, exchanges of assistance and

support, and perceptions regarding intergenerational

behaviors involving an aging parent (Bengtson & Schrader,


Later testing of the model (Atkinson et al., 1986;

Roberts & Bengtson, 1990; Bengtson & Roberts, 1991), in the

third and fourth stages of the development of the theory,

showed that family solidarity is not a unidimensional meta-

construct and that different variables predict each

component. In the 1990 version, family solidarity is a

multifaceted, multidimensional construct, and normative

integration and balanced exchange of resources between aging

parents and their adult children are posited to predict

affectional solidarity between generations which, in turn,

predicts parent-child associational solidarity. Consensual

solidarity is now treated as an independent dimension in the

model because it was not related to affection or

association, as hypothesized (Roberts & Bengtson, 1990;

Bengtson & Roberts, 1991). Other conceptual dimensions of

parent-child cohesion, such as consensus on norms related to

familial closeness and obligation, as well as the functional

exchange aspects of parent-child relations, are now included

in the model (Roberts & Bengtson, 1990). Additionally,

Roberts and Bengtson (1990) suggested that the initial

emphasis on dyadic level constructs was premature and


partially retracted their earlier assertions for lineage

level measurement to allow potentially important individual

level differences between elements in the model to emerge.

The 1991 iteration of the model represents the most

current and developed version. In it, nine propositions

related to intra- and intergenerational normative,

affectual, and associational solidarity were tested. Figure

1 depicts the 1991 revised model and summarizes the

empirically tested connections between the elements.

As shown in Figure 1, when structural solidarity, or

the opportunity structure for interaction through such

factors as proximity, number, and health of family members,

is controlled, greater agreement between aging parents and

their children regarding filial expectation norms (or higher

consensual solidarity on this norm) is associated with

higher intergenerational affection which, in turn, is

correlated with more frequent association between

generations. That is, (1) high levels of parent/child

affection for one another are associated with high levels of

parent/child interaction; (2) there is a positive (though

weak) direct relationship between a parent's familism norms

and association; and (3) opportunity for interaction (i.e,.

via proximity and health) is positively associated with

associational solidarity. However, in this model,

functional solidarity is not accounted for or tested due to

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inadequate indicators of exchange given and received

(Bengtson & Roberts, 1991).

Literature Review. Hypotheses, and Proposed
General Model

Based on the principles of the theory of family

solidarity discussed above, the following section is a

review of the literatures which offer justification for the

specific hypotheses regarding the direct and indirect

effects between variables in the proposed study. In this

study, functional solidarity is the outcome variable (see

Figure 2, p. 36). Because consensus, which requires

information from both the parent and child generations, was

not the focus of this study, consensual solidarity is not

included in this model.

Functional Solidarity

The exchange of aid and assistance among family members

of different generations is a key aspect of family

solidarity (Hancock et al., 1988). Family members are

enduring sources of money, goods, and services, as well as

contact, emotional support, and companionate relationships

(Hagestad, 1981; Hancock et al., 1988) and there is a

general tendency and preference for family members to turn

to kin in times of need or trouble (Treas & Bengtson, 1987).

The interdependence of intergenerational exchange dynamics

points out that exchange can be both a cause and a


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consequence of other facets of family solidarity (Hancock et

al., 1988), including the plans for care that an elderly

parent may have.

In this study, we conceptualize functional solidarity,

or the exchange of familial aid and assistance and an

elder's plans for care, as a consequence of structural,

normative, affectional, and associational solidarities.

Functional solidarity is viewed as a multidimensional

construct in the form of aid and assistance given by an

aging parent to an adult child; as aid and assistance given

by an adult child to an elderly parent; and above and beyond

these exchange elements, as an older parent's plans for

care, in the event of illness or infirmity. We hypothesize

that the higher the levels of both types of inter-

generational exchange, the more likely an elderly parent

will be to select a child or child-in-law versus some other

relative, person, or social agency when considering plans

for care.

It is also important to recognize, on a much broader

level, that the theory of family solidarity has rarely been

applied to the question of functional solidarity in spite of

conceptual links between the dimensions of the theory. In

part, this is due to the fact that Bengtson and his

colleagues have lacked adequate measures of reciprocal

functional solidarity (Bengtson & Roberts, 1991) in their

on-going studies and data. However, in two studies which


included a single measure of helping behaviors (how often a

child helped the respondent with chores or errands) as a

part of models of family solidarity (Atkinson et al., 1986;

Roberts & Bengtson, 1990), functional solidarity was

conceptualized as causally prior to affectional and

associational solidarity and was a significant (and

positive) predictor of only associational solidarity in one

study (Atkinson et al., 1986), but a positive and

significant predictor of both association and affection in

another (Roberts & Bengtson, 1990).

We suggest, however, that functional solidarity is an

outcome of association and affection, as well as norms of

filial obligation and opportunity structures for

interaction. Bengtson and Roberts (1991) argue that

affection and association are the most idiosyncratic

behavioral characteristics of family groups and, thus, most

reflective of family solidarity. As discussed in the

preceding chapter, however, Rossi and Rossi (1990) argue

that, in families, it is sentiment (i.e., affection and

association) that determines family solidarity and,

ultimately the behaviors of family members toward each other

and not vice versa.

For reasons we will detail in subsequent sections of

this chapter, affection and association are equally likely

to increase functional solidarity and may be more indicative

of family solidarity, particularly in later life families.


Rather than intergenerational exchanges leading to increased

frequencies of interaction or levels of affection, we

envision a model in which interaction and affection, as well

as other dimensions of family solidarity, lead to increased

levels of intergenerational exchange and parental

expectations for assistance, if needed, from a child rather

than others as a way to explain the rather amorphous notions

of the bonds of solidarity or sense of 'we-ness' and

exchange between family members (Scanzoni & Marsiglio, 1993;

Ekeh, 1974). We will provide specific hypothesized

relationships between these variables and functional

solidarity in the sections that follow. If we are correct

in our thinking, we will be better able to predict which

family members, if any, can be expected to give and receive

intergenerational aid and assistance in later life families.

This is especially important information in light of the

demographic, ethical, and moral concerns related to the care

of elders by family members.

There are a number of factors that might affect and

mediate the hypothesized relationships between the four

remaining dimensions in the proposed model and functional

solidarity. Each will be reviewed below and relationships

in the proposed model will be specified. Note that these

hypotheses will be described in terms of the direct and

indirect effects of each predictor variable on the outcome

variables, as well as the antecedents to the predictor


Because of the large number of variables, the model to

be estimated is quite complex. In order to provide the

reader with an organizational framework, Figure 2 presents

the hypothetical relationships between the variables and

concepts used in this study, as well as the proposed family

solidarity model that will be tested in this research. The

discussion of the various paths will be accomplished by

working our way backward through the model, beginning with

the predictor variable closest to the outcome variables.

Associational Solidarity

As originally conceptualized in all of Bengtson and

colleagues' family solidarity models, associational

solidarity is seen as an outcome variable. The amount or

frequency of contact and shared activities between family

members is the means by which associational solidarity is

assessed in the family solidarity model; it is assumed that

more contact implies more family solidarity (Mangen &

Miller, 1988). Contact can also be a multidimensional

construct composed of face-to-face interactions, formal and

ritualized events such as birthday celebrations, or indirect

contact such as through letter writing (Mangen & Miller,



Survey data suggest that there is a high degree of

intergenerational contact (Shanas, 1979; Treas & Bengtson,

1987; DeWit et al., 1988), though the types of interactions

that occur can be affected by the proximities, marital

statuses, and genders of family members. Thus, for example,

married daughters have closer ties to their parents than do

married sons. At more proximate distances face-to-face

contact and telephone conversations occur more often than at

less proximate distances. And, infrequent overnight visits

and letter writing take place more often at greater

distances than at more proximate distances (DeWit et al.,

1988; Treas & Bengtson, 1987).

While associational solidarity seems to be a fairly

straight forward dimension of family solidarity, we question

its causal order in the formal model; that is, is

associational solidarity an outcome of the other dimensions

of family solidarity, as it is in all of the family

solidarity models to date (i.e., see Bengtson & Roberts,

1991 or Roberts & Bengtson, 1990), or is it causally prior

to functional solidarity?

It is certainly reasonable to presume that increased

helping behaviors among family members should lead to

increased intergenerational associations. However, rather

than maintaining that associational solidarity depends on

functional solidarity, we suggest, as Rossi and Rossi (1990)

have posited, that functional solidarity depends on


associational solidarity; that is, we argue that parents and

children who interact with each other more often will

exchange more and parents will be more likely to chose a

child that they interact with often to care for them simply

because of an increased awareness of each other's needs and

problems, due to the higher levels of contact. We suggest

that interaction provides older parents and their children

with the opportunity to understand each other's needs and

available resources, with the involvement in each other's

lives that might motivate intergenerational exchanges, and

with the physical opportunities to achieve such exchanges,

above and beyond the effects of proximity. Thus, in this

study, we are asking if frequency of contact directly

affects the giving and receiving of familial aid and

assistance and an elderly parent's plans for care in the

event of severe illness or disability, and indirectly

affects older parents' plans for care through aid given to

and received from children. For the reasons we stated

above, we find this conceptualization to be much more

sensible and useful in determining and theorizing about

family solidarity.

Associational solidarity or the frequency of contact

with children is expected to be positively associated with

functional solidarity. Thus, associational solidarity will

have a positive direct effect on the giving and receiving of

intergenerational aid.


In addition, higher levels of associational solidarity

will directly increase the likelihood of an older parent

selecting a child or child-in-law, as opposed others or

social agencies, in terms of plans for care. We also expect

that higher levels of associational solidarity will

indirectly affect elderly parents' choices of a child or

child-in-law as a helper (rather than others) through

increased levels of intergenerational exchange of aid.

Affectional Solidarity

Gronvold (1988) conceptualizes affectional solidarity

as the quality of mutual sentiments that people attach to

their relations with each other, such as love, affection,

and liking. These psychological states are difficult to

operationalize and, thus, the affectual dimension of parent-

child relationships has been somewhat neglected by

researchers (Treas & Bengtson, 1987). Nonetheless, as

defined earlier, affectional solidarity in the models

proposed by Bengtson and his colleagues is the kinds and

amounts of positive sentiment that each family member feels

toward or perceives about other family members (Bengtson &

Schrader, 1981; Gronvold, 1988). These sentiments seem to

originate solely in, or are explained exclusively by,

normative solidarity; that is, the higher the norms of

filial responsibility, the greater the affection for a child

(Bengtson & Roberts, 1991; Roberts & Bengtson, 1990),

regardless of opportunity structures for interaction such as

proximity (Rossi & Rossi, 1990) or sociodemographic


As originally developed by Bengtson and Black (1979),

affectional solidarity includes such components as

understanding, trust, fairness, respect, affection,

communication, and harmony between generations. Affectional

solidarity is fundamental to family solidarity because it

imbues the sense of closeness and cohesiveness between

family members. If the basic elements of trust or fairness

or understanding are, for example, absent in familial

relations, it is not difficult to imagine that other

elements of family solidarity, such as frequency of contact

or intergenerational exchanges of aid and assistance, will

be adversely affected. Indeed, Rossi and Rossi (1990),

Roberts and Bengtson (1990) and Bengtson and Roberts (1991)

have shown that affectional solidarity is positively

correlated with associational solidarity and with the

exchange forms of functional solidarity.

There is, however, some question as to whether

intergenerational aid predicts affectional solidarity or

vice versa. Bengtson and his colleagues (Roberts & Bengtson,

1990; Bengtson & Roberts, 1991) argue that balanced on-going

exchanges engender positive sentiment between parents and

children, reflecting the balancing of costs and rewards in


social relationships that are characteristic of social

exchange theory principles (e.g., Homans).

On the other hand, other researchers (e.g., Rossi &

Rossi, 1990; Whitbeck et al., 1994) contend that such

reasoning tends to overlook the ways in which a family's

history can influence solidarity. As Homans (19500 has

suggested, in order for exchange to take place, there must

be sentiment or liking of the person with whom we exchange.

Indeed, Rossi and Rossi (1990, p. 266) clearly state that

"affective closeness of contemporary parent-adult child

relationships is the dimension of solidarity most deeply

rooted in early family life, which in turn sets the stage

for the frequency of social interaction and help exchange."

These early family histories, in which affection,

interaction, and exchange patterns between family members

are developed and reinforced, can be expected to influence

role changes, dependency and caretaking issues, and the

negotiation and the maintenance of support systems in later

life families (Whitbeck et al., 1994). Thus, early family

relations would be expected to influence contemporary

feelings of affection and contact among family members. In

turn, affection can affect contact between an older parent

and a child, as well as the ability of family members to

support each other, through intergenerational exchanges, and

who an older parent might plan on choosing for caregiving,


both directly, and indirectly through associational


Several direct and indirect paths are expected between

affectional solidarity and the three types of functional

solidarity. In terms of direct effects, affectional

solidarity is expected to positively affect associational

solidarity, as well as the giving and receiving of aid

between parents and adult children; parents who have high

levels of affectional solidarity with their children are

also expected to more often plan for their children to

provide assistance and aid, if needed, than parents who have

low levels of affectional solidarity. Parents with low

levels of affectional solidarity toward children will be

more likely to plan to use social agencies or nursing homes,

in case of impairment or frailty.

In terms of indirect paths between affectional

solidarity and functional solidarity: first, higher levels

of affectional solidarity will lead to increased

associational solidarity, in turn increasing the giving and

receiving of intergenerational aid and the likelihood that

an older parent will expect a child to assist them when

thinking of plans for care; and, second, the positive

relationship between affectional solidarity and plans for

care will be mediated by both aid given by parents to

children and aid received from children.

Normative Solidarity

Kinship norms are societal prescriptions or

expectations for attitudes and behaviors directed toward

family members. These culturally defined attitudes and

behaviors are guided by a sense of obligation and

sanctioning for indifference to them (Rossi & Rossi, 1990;

Finley et al., 1988; Mangen & Westbrook, 1988). Group

cohesiveness or solidarity depends on these norms; that is,

the more one conforms to the group norms, the more

interaction and liking is received from other group members,

and the more valuable the group experience is to the

individual (Homans, 1957).

In terms of family solidarity, Mangen and Westbrook

(1988) conceptualize normative solidarity as consisting of

two components: (1) filial responsibility expectations and

obligations (termed familism) and (2) the degree of

intergenerational consensus regarding these filial

responsibility expectations and obligations. However,

Mangen (1988) states that no support has been found for the

consensus component of normative solidarity. For this

reason, and because this study is concerned with only the

parent generation, we will use the filial responsibility

expectations component of normative solidarity.

Note, as mentioned in the previous chapter, that in

terms of filial responsibility expectations, we are

describing generalized or "universalistic" norms regarding


the obligations of adult children to their aging parents and

not the individual or "particularistic" situations of

parents and their children (Lee et al., 1994a). That is, it

is possible for one to believe, in the abstract, that "adult

children" should provide support to "aging parents," but to

recognize that in their own particular situation that

support is not possible or forthcoming, perhaps because

their own adult child is out of work or lives a great

distance from them. Nonetheless, the theory of family

solidarity does imply a positive relationship between

normative solidarity and other forms of family solidarity,

such as association or exchange of assistance. This may

represent an important connection between attitudes and

behaviors (Lee et al., 1994a) which could have beneficial or

detrimental effects on family solidarity.

As stated earlier, filial responsibility expectations

refer to the degree to which parents generally expect adult

children to provide support, assistance, and aid to them in

times of need (Seelbach, 1977, 1978; Seelbach & Sauer, 1977;

Blieszner & Mancini, 1987). However, Mangen and Westbrook

(1988) point out that norms of filial responsibility, as

well as the enforcement of those norms, are not fixed; that

is, they can be influenced or explained by circumstances

such as demographic, societal, situational, and family

structure changes. Some of these antecedents will be

discussed in subsequent sections.


Normative solidarity, as with associational and

affectional solidarity, also may have its roots in early

childhood experiences (Rossi & Rossi, 1990). Children who

are exposed to higher levels of kin obligations and

subsequent behaviors to that effect tend to develop a

stronger sense of filial obligation and to retain those

norms in the present (Rossi & Rossi, 1990). Furthermore,

those norms of familial obligation do translate into

increased affection, association, and familial resource

exchanges (Bengtson & Roberts, 1991; Roberts & Bengtson,

1990; Rossi & Rossi, 1990). In fact, from a social exchange

theory perspective, it seems that having a sense of filial

obligations is a necessary condition of resource exchange

among family members, otherwise there is no value to

exchanges (i.e., there would only be unbalanced, random

exchanges and of reciprocity), for the individual member or

the family group. Thus, there is no logical reason to

suspect that the simple act of intergenerational exchanges

would lead to filial responsibility expectations in family


In terms of observed correlations with other dimensions

of family solidarity, some researchers have, indeed, found

that filial expectation norms are positively associated with

affectional solidarity (Bengtson & Roberts, 1991; Roberts &

Bengtson, 1990) and associational solidarity (Atkinson et

al., 1986; Bengtson & Roberts, 1991; Roberts & Bengtson,


1990). Still others have discovered that filial

responsibility expectations are positively related to aid

given to adult children by elderly parents, when factors

such as parental education, income, and health are

controlled, yet have no effect on the receiving of aid from

adult children by elderly parents (Lee et al., 1994b).

In spite of these findings, we do not yet understand

fully what roles the filial expectations of elderly parents,

parent-child relations, and intergenerational contact play

in terms of functional solidarity. While it has been found

that elders who expect more from their children do not

necessarily receive more in the forms of monetary and

emotional support and assistance (Lee et al., 1994b), it

seems likely that the relationship between normative

solidarity and functional solidarity may, in part, operate

through affection for a child and contact with a child, such

that elders who feel less affection for their children and

have less contact with them (perhaps because of less

affectionate feelings between the parent and child) actually

receive and/or give less aid and are less likely to expect

assistance from the child, if such help is needed.

We expect the following direct and indirect

relationships with regard to normative solidarity and its

effect on functional solidarity: First, filial

responsibility expectations or normative solidarity will be

directly and positively associated with the giving type of

functional solidarity and with plans for care. That is, the

higher the filial responsibility expectations of older

parents, the more aid they will give to their adult children

and the more likely they will be to choose a child as a

helper in the event that caregiving is needed in the future.

Because it has been found that filial responsibility

expectations have no effect on the receiving of aid from

adult children by elderly parents (Lee et al., 1994b), no

relationship is proposed between normative solidarity and

the receiving form of functional solidarity.

Second, normative solidarity is also expected to be

directly related to both affectional and associational

solidarity. That is, the higher the filial responsibility

expectations of elderly parents, the more the affection they

will feel for their adult children and the higher they will

rate their relationship with their children; and the higher

the filial responsibility expectations, the higher the

frequency of contact with children.

Third, the relationship between normative solidarity

and functional solidarity is expected to be mediated by

affectional and associational solidarity. The higher the

norms of filial obligation, the higher the affectional

solidarity, and the higher the exchange forms of functional

solidarity, as well as the greater likelihood of an elderly

parent choosing a child over others for care, if needed. We

also hypothesize that affectional solidarity and the giving

of aid to children will transmit some of the effects of

normative solidarity on plans for care.

Similar indirect paths are expected between normative

solidarity and functional solidarity through associational

solidarity. That is, we hypothesize indirect paths from

normative solidarity to associational solidarity to aid

given to children and to plans for care. And, higher levels

of normative solidarity will lead to higher contact between

older parents and children associationall solidarity),

leading to higher levels of giving aid to children, and

finally to an increased likelihood of expecting aid from

children, rather than others, in terms of plans for care.

Finally, we hypothesize an indirect path from normative

solidarity to functional solidarity, first through

affectional, then through associational solidarity. That

is, high filial responsibility expectations will predict

increased levels of affectionate feelings of older parents

for their children, in turn predicting increased contact,

and lastly, increasing the exchange of intergenerational aid

and expectations for care from children. The path from

normative solidarity to plans for care will also go first

through affectional solidarity, then associational

solidarity, and, finally, through giving aid to adult

children to plans for care.

Structural Solidarity

McChesney and Mangen (1988, p. 57) define opportunity

structure for interaction, or structural solidarity, as "the

presence or absence of family role relationships that

indicate the static potential for the development of

repeated patterns of interpersonal behavior." Thus, family

structure can limit the number of family members available

for interaction and influence interaction opportunities

through such factors as geographical proximity, number of

living children, and parental health (McChesney & Mangen,

1988). In this study, the following variables will comprise

structural solidarity: proximity between an elder and an

adult child; number of living children and grandchildren in

an elder's family; and parental health. More specific

relationships between the various elements of structural

solidarity and the other dimensions in the proposed model

are detailed below.

The number of living children and grandchildren in an

elder's family can be viewed as an enabling or constraining

influence on family solidarity (McChesney & Mangen, 1988).

Rossi and Rossi (1990) have found that parents with smaller

numbers of children give more in terms of intergenerational

aid and assistance, but receive less support than parents

with larger numbers of children. We expect to find

identical direct relationships with family size, in terms of

the exchange forms functional solidarity. We also expect


that parents with large numbers of children will be more

likely to identify a child as a potential source of care and

parents with fewer children to name social agencies or other

family members as sources of care. Family size is

hypothesized to indirectly effect older parents' plans for

care through the giving and receiving of intergenerational


Rossi and Rossi (1990) have found that norms of kin

obligations are independent of the size or composition of

families. They argue that this is because norms of filial

obligation are culturally defined and most people are able

to separate abstract concepts such as filial responsibility

expectations from their own concrete family situations, such

as the actual size of their family. This argument is

similar to the one made earlier regarding universalistic and

particularistic norms (Lee et al., 1994a). Based on this

logic, we expect to find an older parent's family size will

be unrelated to normative solidarity.

Some scholars argue that residential propinquity may be

the most important antecedent of familial associations (Lee,

1980; Lee et al., 1990) and is a factor closely related to

associational and affectional solidarity and with helping

behaviors in the form of functional solidarity (Roberts et

al., 1991; Climo, 1988; Mercier et al., 1988).

Thus, proximity may limit opportunities for contact,

for the development of affectionate relations, and for the


exchange of intergenerational aid. The nearer to each other

a parent and child live, the greater the likelihood that

familial associations can take place, that high quality

parent-child relationships can be formed, and that

intergenerational exchange can occur (Bengtson et al., 1976;

Frankel & DeWit, 1989; Mercier et al., 1988). Proximity may

also be related to filial responsibility expectations.

Mercier et al. (1989) have found that parents who live

closer to their children have higher filial responsibility

expectations. The effect of proximity on functional

solidarity may also be mediated by normative solidarity.

In this study, proximity to children is modeled as an

exogenous variable. However, it is quite possible that some

children may choose to live close to their parents because

of a sense of filial responsibility or affection toward

their parents, because they enjoy the contact they have with

their parents, or because they are anticipating a parent's

need for extensive care in the near future and want to be

close by to assist that parent. Some parents could choose

to live close to their children for similar reasons; they

have affectionate relations with their children or enjoy

contact with their children or plan on receiving caregiving

from their children, and, therefore, want to be near them.

thus, particular elements of family solidarity could

certainly motivate parents and children to decide to live

near each other because the results of their interactions


are rewarding to them or, stated differently, because they

value these decisions or choices that they have made.

Therefore, there are some plausible reasons to model

proximity as an endogenous variable dependent upon other

dimensions of family solidarity.

On the other hand, all theoretical and empirical work

in the area of family solidarity (e.g., Bengtson & Roberts,

1991; Roberts & Bengtson, 1990; Bengtson et al., 1988; Rossi

& Rossi, 1990) treats proximity as an exogenous variable

with respect to the other dimensions of family solidarity.

While these authors have not explicitly addressed this

issue, in general, they seem to view proximity of family

members as an opportunity structure for interaction, which

explains variation in the other dimensions of family

solidarity, while not addressing the issue of causality.

A search of the literature on filial responsibility

expectations and kinship relations, however, provides us

with several reasonable arguments for modeling proximity as

a exogenous variable, which may explain the thinking of

Bengtson and his colleagues and Rossi and Rossi (1990) in

conceptualizing proximity as part of "opportunity

structures" for interaction in family solidarity.

First, proximity between older parents and their adult

children depends heavily, although not exclusively, on the

residential and mobility decisions of the children, since

older adults are the least mobile age group of the


population (Clifford et al., 1985). Furthermore, our

measure of filial responsibility expectations taps parents'

norms, not children's, and there is no evidence that

parents' norms of filial responsibility influence children's

behaviors (Lee et al., 1994b). On the other hand, proximity

may more reasonably affect parents' filial responsibility

expectations through dissonance reduction (Festinger, 1957;

Finley et al., 1988; Lee et al., 1994a); that is, parents

whose children move away may reduce their feelings of

internal inconsistency, or dissonance, that arise when

expectations cannot be fulfilled by adopting norms or

revising expectations for assistance that do not view

proximity or frequent interaction as obligations of children

(Finley et al., 1988; Lee et al., 1994a).

Second, while considerations involving family and older

parents may be one factor involved in the residential

decisions of children, the literature on kinship relations

has long demonstrated that other factors are of greater

significance, particularly those involving economic

opportunities for children (Lee, 1980; Lee, 1988; Lee et

al., 1990; Mancini & Blieszner, 1989). Measures of these

opportunities (i.e., regional employment rates) are not

available in our data set, and, in any event, would be

exogenous in the present model. Family relations may be

maintained in many respects in spite of distance, by

telephone or visits; this is not true of employment.


Thus, proximity of parents and children will enable or

limit opportunities for family solidarity to arise; for

example, it may be a factor which will determine the

frequency of interaction between older parents and their

children, the exchange of intergenerational aid, or the

plans for care that elders make. It is, therefore,

reasonable to treat proximity as an opportunity structure

for family solidarity, as do those scholars most involved in

the development of the theory of family solidarity, rather

than as a consequence of other dimensions of family


Finally, it is also likely that proximity is contingent

upon several of the sociodemographic variables in our model,

such as race and area of residence (lee, 1980; Lee et al.,

1990). However, these paths are not central to our theory;

that is, the issue of whether any effects of race and

residence on other dimensions of our model are direct or

indirect through proximity is not the focus of this study.

Inclusion of these paths would needlessly complicate the

model. Therefore, proximity is treated in this

investigation as correlated with other sociodemographic

factors, rather than endogenous to them.

Accordingly, we hypothesize direct relationships

between proximity and all three forms of functional

solidarity. Parents who live close to their children will

have higher levels of intergenerational exchange of aid and


will more often expect help from a child when making plans

for care than parents who live greater distances from their


We hypothesize that proximity to children will be

indirectly associated with the exchange forms of functional

solidarity and plans for care, through normative,

affectional, and associational solidarity. That is, we

expect that parents who live closer to their children will

have higher filial responsibility expectations, more

affectionate feelings for those children, more contact with

the children, increased exchange of aid, and ultimately, an

increased likelihood of the parent selecting the more

proximate child for caregiving. Normative solidarity,

associational solidarity, and affectional solidarity will

act separately to mediate the relationships between

proximity and the forms of functional solidarity, as well as

in concert with each other with normative solidarity

causally prior to affectional solidarity and associational


As originally conceptualized, parental health was seen

as an opportunity structure for interaction (Bengtson &

Roberts, 1991). That is, Bengtson and colleagues suggest

that parents in good health are much more able to get

together with their children and to interact with them.

Recall that, in this model, interaction or association with

family members is seen as an outcome variable. Their


results indicate that the relationship between good parental

health and higher levels of associational solidarity is weak

and only marginally significant (p .10). However, this

study is concerned with older parents and this may reverse

the situation regarding health. Parental health may still

be an opportunity structure for interaction, but in the

opposite way that Bengtson and colleagues envision it, more

as a need factor. We will use this conceptualization of

parental health in this study.

Parental health is a factor closely associated with

functional solidarity, directly and through normative and

associational solidarity; that is, parental physical

disabilities are more likely to precipitate the desire and

need for filial support and assistance, thus positively

influencing filial responsibility expectations and frequency

of contact or association with children (Crimmins &

Ingegneri, 1990; Lee et al., 1994b; Seelbach, 1978).

Furthermore, the evidence indicates that children will help

more when parents are in need (Atkinson et al., 1986).

Thus, we expect that parental health will have both

direct and indirect effects on intergenerational exchange of

aid and plans for care. Parents in poor health will have

higher levels of normative and associational solidarity,

will receive more assistance from children, and will more

often expect help from children, rather than other sources

of aid, in terms of plans for care. The hypothesized


relationships between parental health and aid received from

children and plans for care will also be indirectly mediated

through normative and associational solidarity. In terms of

aid given to children, we expect that parents in good health

will be more likely to give aid to their children. No

indirect effects between parental health and aid given to

children are hypothesized.

Sociodemographic Factors

A set of sociodemographic variables is also included in

the proposed model. They are (1) race, (2) gender and (3)

marital statuses of older parents and their children, (4)

parental age, (5) parental employment status, (6) child

employment status, (7) the area of parental residence (rural

versus urban), (8) parental income, and (9) parental

educational level. These factors are thought to exert

influences on family solidarity and, therefore, must be

controlled. More specific relationships between these

variables and components in the proposed model are detailed


Race. There is a growing body of comparative research

on the structure, function, and solidarity of nonwhite

versus white families. Much of this research is comparisons

of blacks and whites and generally supports the view that

black families are more likely to have extensive support and

exchange networks, as well as an increased likelihood of


extended families than are white families (Cox & Monk, 1990;

Angel & Tienda, 1982; Smerglia et al., 1988). Additionally,

black elders are less likely to use formal health and

caregiving services and are more likely to rely upon family

members than are white elders (Angel & Tienda, 1982; Mindel

et al., 1986; Edmonds, 1990; Johnson et al., 1990; Reed,

1990). White elders, on the other hand, have been reported

to have higher filial responsibility expectations than black

elders (Hanson et al., 1983). The relationships between

race and family structure, support expectations, and

exchange, however, may be attenuated by socioeconomic

factors, such as income, occupation, and educational levels,

cultural differences, and racism, as well as race

differences in mortality, fertility, and marital patterns

(Mutchler, 1990; Tienda & Angel, 1982; Burton & Dilworth-

Anderson, 1991).

Because of these race differences, we hypothesize

several direct and indirect paths. We expect that nonwhite

elders will have higher levels of both associational and the

exchange forms of functional solidarity with their adult

children, as well as being more likely to mention their

adult children as sources of care if needed in later life.

White elders will be more likely to specify formal

caregiving services. Because of reported higher filial

responsibility expectations on the part of older white


parents, we hypothesize that these parents will have higher

levels of normative solidarity.

Gender. Gender of both generations is a key factor in

intergenerational solidarity, particularly in terms of

associational, normative, and functional solidarity. Women

are traditionally thought of as family "kinkeepers" and

associational ties are found to be much stronger between

mothers and daughters (Lee, 1980; Abel, 1986; Atkinson et

al., 1986; Suitor & Pillemer, 1988; McChesney & Mangen,

1988; Rossi & Rossi, 1990). In terms of intergenerational

caregiving, because women tend to be younger than their

husbands and also tend to outlive them, the majority of

elders requiring care are women (Lee, 1992) and the majority

who provide care are also women (Stone et al., 1987). Older

women have also been shown to have higher filial

responsibility expectations (Seelbach, 1977; Blieszner &

Mancini, 1987) perhaps because older women feel they need

more help due to less financial security than older men.

Based on this evidence, we hypothesize that older

mothers will have more contact with children, will have

higher levels of normative solidarity, will be more likely

to receive aid from children and to select children as

helpers than older fathers. We expect that older fathers

will be more likely to give aid to children perhaps because

they can afford to help their children more than older

mothers. It is important to note here that the marital

status of the elder may affect associations between gender

and the other forms of family solidarity, primarily because

more resources may be available to married couples than to

unmarried elders. The relationships between parent's gender

and receiving aid from children and plans for care will also

be indirectly mediated by associational and normative

solidarity because women tend to have more contact with

family members and to hold higher filial responsibility

expectations, which, in turn, increase these forms of

functional solidarity. No indirect path between parent's

gender and giving aid to children is expected.

Similar direct and indirect paths are expected between

gender of a child, associational solidarity, and the

exchange forms of functional solidarity. Daughters are

expected to have more contact with parents, to give more

help to their parents, and to receive more assistance from

them. As with parents, the marital status of the child may

have an influence on these relationships.

Marital status. According to McChesney and Mangen

(1988), the structure of the family or kinship network is

one aspect of the potential for family solidarity. The

family structure is, of course, affected by the current

marital statuses of the generations. The marital status of

parents and their children has been found to influence

functional, associational, normative solidarity.


In terms of functional solidarity, it has been reported

at the bivariate and multivariate levels that married

parents provide more support to children and widowed or

divorced parents receive more support from their children

(Rossi & Rossi, 1990; Lee et al., 1994b; Lee et al., 1993;

Seelbach, 1978). This suggests that those elderly parents

who can provide more do so; married parents seem to be in a

better position to help their children perhaps because they

are younger or financially better off than their older

counterparts. Unmarried parents receive more aid from

children than married parents because of the tendency for

married parents to rely more upon their spouses for help

than upon their children (Seelbach, 1978). Therefore, we

hypothesize that married parents will provide more aid and

assistance to children and unmarried parents will receive

more aid from children.

In terms of plans for care, spouses are seen as the

"first line of defense" in family care (Coward et al., 1992;

Lee et al., 1994a). However, because this study is

concerned with intergenerational relations in family

solidarity, spouses become extraneous to these relations.

We therefore chose to exclude spouses when asking our

respondents to consider who would help in the event of

illness, infirmity, or need, leaving elderly married parents

just as likely to choose a child as elderly unmarried

parents. Accordingly, we hypothesize that, for elderly


parents, there will be no differences according to parental

marital status in choosing a child versus others when

considering plans for care.

Parents who are divorced or separated experience lower

levels of contact with children than married or widowed

parents (Crimmins & Ingegneri, 1990), especially divorced or

separated fathers (Cooney & Uhlenberg, 1990). Widowhood, on

the other hand, especially tends to increase associational

solidarity (Roberts et al., 1991), perhaps reflecting the

greater dependency needs of widowed parents. However,

because older women are more likely to be widowed than older

men and because, as discussed in the section on gender,

women are the ones who maintain intergenerational kin ties

and contact, these effects of marital status on

associational solidarity are likely to be attenuated by

gender. Therefore, we expect no relationship between

parental marital status and associational solidarity.

Seelbach (1978) has found higher levels of normative

solidarity among unmarried parents. It may be that because

this group of elders do not have a spouse to rely upon, if

they need help, they may be more concerned about where they

will receive such help than married parents, thus,

increasing their filial responsibility expectations.

Therefore, we hypothesize that unmarried parents will have

higher levels of normative solidarity.


Children's marital status is likely to influence the

exchange forms of functional solidarity, as well as

associational solidarity. Dwyer and Coward (1991) and

Hoyert (1989) have found that married children provide less

assistance to older parents than unmarried children. Their

responsibilities to their own spouses and children may

create role conflict and therefore reduce the aid they

provide to their parents and the contact they may have with

them. Therefore, we hypothesize that married children will

be less likely to provide aid to their older parents and

will have lower levels of associational solidarity than

unmarried children.

On the other hand, unmarried children may require more

help, such as coresidency, from parents than married

children (Aquilino, 1990; Speare & Avery, 1993; Ward et al.,

1992) because of recent economic trends which show slowed

economic growth, higher unemployment rates, and high housing

costs (Ward et al., 1992). Similar to the arguments made

with race and aid given to children, unmarried children and

their older parents can pool resources in hard economic

times. Such support may be reciprocal with an older parent

providing housing to an unmarried child in exchange for

caregiving help (Stoller, 1983). Therefore, we expect that

unmarried children will be more likely to receive aid from

older parents than married children.


We expect the hypothesized effects of parent and child

marital statuses on functional, associational, and normative

solidarity to be direct only.

Age. We expect several direct and indirect paths

between parent's age and functional solidarity. Parental

age has been found to be positively and directly correlated

with the amount of aid an older parent might receive from

children because older parents are more likely to need such

assistance as caregiving or living with a child (Roberts et

al., 1991; Crimmins & Ingegneri, 1990). Previous research

has also shown significant declines in aid given to children

as parents age (Mutran & Reitzer, 1984; Rossi & Rossi,

1990). this effect remains even when incomes of the parent

and child generations are controlled (Rossi & Rossi, 1990)

and is most likely related to increased frailty with age

which can limit a parent's ability to assist a child.

Additionally, because of the increased risk of infirm health

or frailty that comes with age, plans for care may take on

added importance to old-old parents, compared to young-old

parents. Thus, we expect that the relationships between age

and aid received from a child and selecting a child for

caregiving assistance will be positive and direct and the

relationship between age and aid given to a child to be

direct, but negative in direction.

In terms of associations between age and other forms of

solidarity, age has been found to be positively and directly

correlated with associational solidarity and negatively

correlated with normative solidarity. That is, older

parents have more contact with children than younger parents

(Roberts et al., 1991; Crimmins & Ingegneri, 1990) and

younger parents have higher filial responsibility

expectations (Brody et al., 1984; Hamon & Blieszner, 1990;

Rossi & Rossi, 1990). Thus, we hypothesize direct positive

effects of parental age on associational solidarity and we

expect the direct effect of age on normative solidarity to

be negative.

We propose that the relationship between parent's age

and receiving assistance from children and plans for care

will also be indirect through associational solidarity.

Because of the increased risk of illness and disability as

parents age, there will be more contact with children, which

will serve to increase the aid these older parents will

receive from their children, as well as expecting help from

a child rather than others.

Affectional solidarity is likely to be influenced by

both the age of the parent and age of the child. Suitor and

Pillemer (1988), Bengtson (1979), and Cicirelli (1981)

suggest that as children grow older, they become more

similar to their parents in terms of such orientations and

understandings as politics, religion, filial responsibility

expectations, child rearing, and personal relations. As

they age, parents and their children become more tolerant of


remaining differences between them, resulting in more

harmonious and affectionate parent-child relations. An

explanation for this "coming together" between older parents

and their adult children is found in the theory of

developmental stake. In this theory, Bengtson (1979) and

Bengtson et al. (1976) suggest that as persons age, because

they have invested more in their parent-child relationships,

they have more at stake in terms of intergenerational

relations, and thus, see their relationships with their

children in a more positive light than do their children.

Additionally, Aldous, Klaus, and Klein (1985) have found

that elderly parents are more likely to use older rather

than younger children as confidants, again perhaps because

of that sense of increased understanding and tolerance for


Thus, we hypothesize that the older the parents and

their children, the higher the levels of affectional

solidarity. Affectional solidarity will also indirectly

intervene between parent's age, children's age and the

receiving and plans for care forms of functional solidarity.

Older parents and parents with older children will have

higher levels of affectional solidarity, in turn increasing

the aid these parents receive from children and the

likelihood of an older parent expecting help from their



In terms of the aid older parents might give to their

children, we hypothesize a direct negative effect only

between parental age and aid given to children; that is, we

expect that younger parents will be more likely to provide

aid to their children than will older parents. This may be

because younger parents are more likely to still be working

or to have higher retirement incomes and, thereby, can

afford to assist their children more than older parents.

Employment status. The effects of parental employment

status on functional solidarity may be an issue of economic

resources. Elderly parents who are working full-time may be

doing so because they cannot afford to retire or because

they are assisting needy adult children. Their employment

earnings may bring their income levels above that of retired

persons. Consequently, employed elderly parents may be able

to provide more assistance to adult children. Because older

parents who are still employed also may be more healthy than

their retired counterparts, they would be less likely to

receive aid from children and to choose children as

potential helpers because they have the resources to

consider other options. Therefore, we hypothesize that

older parents who are employed will provide more aid and

assistance to adult children. These parents will also be

less likely to be receiving aid from children and less

likely to choose an adult child when considering plans for

care than elderly parents who are not employed (i.e.,


retired). These effects are likely to be reduced or

eliminated by controls for income and age.

Aid received from and given to children may also be

functions of the adult child's employment status and

available resources. We must note, however, that the

direction of the effect of child's employment status on aid

received from children is not clear with the cross-sectional

data that will be used in this study; that is, we do not

know in this cross-sectional study whether the children quit

work or reduced work hours because they are helping elderly

parents which would tend to increase the aid they give to

elderly parents.

Nonetheless, with that caveat in mind, there is

considerable evidence in the caregiving literature to

suggest that, for adult children, being employed

significantly reduces caregiving assistance provided to an

infirm parent because of the added demands of employment on

the allocation of time to other tasks and childrearing

responsibilities. This finding of competing

responsibilities reducing parental caregiving is especially

true if the child is a male or, regardless of gender, if

working full-time versus part-time (Stoller, 1983; Stueve &

O'Donnell, 1989; Boaz & Muller, 1992). Additionally, Rossi

and Rossi (1990) have found that parents of employed

children also reduce the amount of help they give to such

children, perhaps because they do not think that employed


children need their help. Therefore, we hypothesize that

children employed full-time will be less likely to provide

assistance to an elderly parent than children who are not

employed or who are employed part-time. Having an employed

child is also expected to negatively affect an elderly

parent choosing that child as a potential caregiver; that

is, parents of employed children will be more likely to

expect other sources of caregiving than their children.

Additionally, as suggested above, adult children who

are unemployed may find that a pooling of resources between

themselves and their parents is to their benefit. Thus, we

hypothesize that unemployed children will receive more aid

from their parents than employed children. This effect,

however, is likely to be attenuated by the child's marital

status. Children who are both unmarried (Ward et al., 1992)

and unemployed would seem to have the most need for

assistance from family members.

We expect no indirect effects between parent or child

employment status and functional solidarity.

Area of residence. Residential location is a

characteristic of parents that has been found to influence

associational solidarity in families (Roberts et al., 1991;

Crimmins & Ingegneri, 1990), as well as the quality of the

parent-child relationship (Mercier et al., 1988) and the

giving and receiving of aid and assistance (Lee et al.,

1990). Urban elders have been found to experience less


contact with children than do rural elders (Roberts et al.,

1991; Crimmins & Ingegneri, 1990). However, Crimmins and

Ingegneri (1990) suggest that while it may be that urban

parents have more nonfamilial sources of support and

interaction available to them which may tend to reduce the

need for intergenerational contacts, most likely proximity

to children intervenes between area of residence and

associational solidarity; older urban parents are more

likely to live closer to their children than are older rural

parents (Crimmins & Ingegneri, 1990) which would tend to

increase contact between them.

Similarly, with regard to intergenerational exchanges

of aid, Lee et al. (1990) point out that rural elders are

less likely than urban elders to have proximate children.

Rural children may have migrated to larger cities in pursuit

of educational and employment opportunities. Their elderly

parents are less likely to be able to avail themselves of

family caregiving and certain types of exchange

opportunities, such as proximate living or coresidence (Lee

et al. 1990; Lee, 1988), thus reducing the exchange forms of

functional solidarity among rural parents.

The strongest predictor of relationship quality for

rural elders is, again, proximity to children (Mercier et

al., 1988). While, as discussed above, rural elders are

less likely to have proximate children, because rural elders

have greater transportation, housing, and health problems


and fewer services available to them than do urban elders,

having a child close by is of more importance to them

(Mercier et al., 1988; Lee et al., 1990) and, thus, having a

high quality relationship with a proximate child is also of

greater importance to them because they must rely more

heavily on this child in the event of infirmity or poor


In terms of area of residence, then, we expect that

urban elders will have lower affectional solidarity than do

rural elders and higher levels of associational solidarity

and of the exchange forms of functional solidarity. These

direct effects will also be mediated by proximity to a


Because of the lack of services in rural areas, area of

residence will directly affect plans for care such that

rural elders will be more likely than urban elders to name a

child as a potential helper. For similar reasons, area of

residence will indirectly affect plans for care through

associational and affectional solidarity. The importance of

children for rural elderly parents' plans for care will

serve to increase contact with children, as well as

affectional solidarity. These relationships, in turn, will

increase the likelihood that rural elderly parents will

expect more help from children than urban parents.

Parental income and educational level. As with

parental employment status, income and educational levels of

elderly parents are likely to operate directly as

"resources" with regard to the various forms of functional

solidarity. Thus, higher levels of both income and

education would allow older parents more flexibility and

resources from which to draw in terms of ability to assist

adult children or to purchase formal care, rather than

relying on children for help. Indeed, other studies have

found that socioeconomic variables, such as parental income,

are positively related to the giving of aid to adult

children (Mutran and Reitzes, 1984; Mitchell and Register,

1984; Lee, Netzer, and Coward, 1994b); that is, the higher

the parental income, the more parental aid is given to adult

children. This is likely a reflection of the ability of

more affluent parents to help their children. Therefore, we

hypothesize that the income levels of older parents will

positively affect the aid these parents give to their

children. Again, because parents with higher incomes may be

more able to purchase help, if needed, we expect that high

income will be related to choosing others for help rather

than children.

On the other side of intergenerational exchange, the

aid received by older parents from adult children, there

appears to be no relationship with income (Mutran & Reitzes,

1984; Lee et al., 1994b). This lack of a relationship is

likely to be related to an adult child's ability to help an

aging parent, through the adult child's income rather than


the parent's income. We expect no relationship between

parental income and the aid elderly parents receive from

their children.

Similar relationships to those hypothesized about

income are expected between education and functional

solidarity. In terms of education and aid received from

children, there seems to be contradictory evidence. Some

researchers find no relationship (e.g., Lee et al., 1994b)

and others find a negative relationship (e.g., Mutran &

Reitzes, 1984). However, it is quite likely that income and

education are highly correlated; this issue will be

addressed in the formal analyses. Some research suggests

that education may be a better indicator for an elderly

person's life status than is income (Mutran & Reitzes,

1984). Rather than eliminating one or the other variable

before analyses are conducted, we prefer to retain both,

thereby capturing as much variability in resource variables

as possible. Therefore, we expect that education will be

positively correlated with the giving of help to adult

children and with choosing someone other than children in

plans for care. Parent's education and the receipt of help

from adult children will not be related.

In addition, there may be indirect effects between

income and education and plans for care through normative

solidarity. High filial responsibility expectations have

been found among elders who have lower income and education


levels (Mangen & Westbrook, 1988), perhaps because these

parents may need more help from their children and, thereby,

normatively presume such help. These effects of education

on normative solidarity, however, may be attributable to the

overall lower educational levels of older generations of

elderly parents (Rossi & Rossi, 1990). Nonetheless, we

expect that older parents who have lower income and

educational resources will have higher levels of normative

solidarity, which will serve to increase the likelihood of

these parents expecting help from a child, rather than



Sampling and Procedures

The data for this study were obtained via telephone

survey, in Fall 1993, from a twenty-five county sample of

Kansas residents, aged 65 and older. Kansas was chosen

because of the above average percentage of elders who reside

in this state; in 1991, 13.9 percent of the population in

Kansas was over the age of 65 (compared to 12.6 percent

nationally), making it seventh among the states for percent

of elders in the population (U.S. Bureau of the Census,

1992). Additionally, Kansas has a significant rural

population, and, as with other rural areas in the U.S., we

expected to find a significant out-migration of rural young

people in pursuit of educational and employment

opportunities (Clifford et al., 1985; Coward et al., 1993;

Stroller & Lee, 1994). This condition would increase or

maximize variation in parent-child proximity, a circumstance

we deemed as essential to our research purposes in the study

of family solidarity.

The sample was stratified by residential location to

ensure equivalent numbers of both rural and urban residents

for analytical purposes. Thus, the sample is not



representative of the general elderly population. The urban

portion of the sample comes from the Kansas City

metropolitan area and the rural portion from western Kansas

where there are no metropolitan areas. This was done to

maximize the rural/urban distinction on a limited budget,

even though it did result in samples from the extremes of

the distribution within Kansas. The only criterion for

inclusion in the study was that the respondent had to be at

least age 65. The elders may or may not have been living

with a child. The possible confounding of coresidence with

other variables in the model will be discussed in detail in

the section in this chapter on the measurement of plans for

care and in the results chapter.

Telephone numbers for the sample were obtained from

purchased lists in the county areas of Kansas. The lists

were based on full selections of telephone directories for

these counties and were compiled so as to increase the

likelihood of contacting households that contained elderly

members. When a contacted household contained more than one

person age 65 and older, a random procedure was used to

select one respondent.

Telephone contacts were made with 1,421 eligible

respondents. Of those, 400 elders completed the full

interview for a simple response rate of 28.1 percent.

However, there are several methods of calculating response

rates, depending on what is used as the numerator and the


denominator (Lavrakas, 1993; Luck & Rubin, 1987). In this

project, the firm contracted to conduct the interviews

calculated a 28.1 percent response rate as follows: The

number of completed interviews (400) added to the number of

respondents who did not meet our inclusion criteria (142),

persons who were over the quota on residency (111), cases

where there was a language barrier (20), and calls made to

businesses (26) for a total of 699. The numerator was then

divided by 699 plus the number of refusals (1,056; total for

denominator = 1,755) for a 39.8 percent response rate.

Thirty-eight of the elders were childfree and are not

included in this study. The final sample is 362 older


We are aware that the low response rate may produce

bias and this is problematic in terms of inference and

generalizability to the larger population of elderly parents

and family members. However, in order to test our

theoretical thinking and the proposed model, we will assume

that the nonresponse rate occurred randomly and that the

correlations between variables are the same among responders

and nonresponders.

All responses to questions regarding quality of parent-

child relations, frequency of contact with children, aid

given and aid received are asked about one focal child and

are based on parental reports of relations with this focal


child. Responses to the plans for care variable include all

available children, not just the focal child.

Our interest in this study is to examine how the

various measures of family solidarity affect functional

solidarity among older parents. That is, our objective in

assessing the various dimensions of family solidarity is not

to characterize the solidarity in each family, but rather to

estimate the extent to which elderly parents experience

solidarity with each child. The ideal measurement situation

would be to obtain relevant information about all children

of each respondent and then to devise summary measures that

would not be unduly influenced by family size and other

related factors. This was not possible in this study

because of (1) the age of the respondents and their physical

abilities to remain on the telephone for extended periods of

time in order to gather information on all children and (2)

budgetary constraints which did not permit detailed measures

of the various dimensions of family solidarity for all

children in an elder's family. Even if such data were

available, adequate summary measures have not, as yet, been

developed. Therefore, the problem became one of choosing an

appropriate child to represent all children in families

containing more than one child.

There are two possible ways to accomplish this task.

One is to randomly select a child. This is the strategy

used by Bengtson and colleagues in their research on family


solidarity (Bengtson & Roberts, 1991; Mangen et al., 1988;

Roberts & Bengtson, 1990). The advantages to this method

are that (1) average solidarity across all children may be

estimated for the sample as a whole; and (2) variation in

the dimensions of solidarity, such as affection and

association, are maximized.

However, our interest in this research is not in the

average amount of solidarity experienced by each parent with

all children, but rather in the extent to which the parent

experiences solidarity with any child. Our theoretical

framework suggests that parents who are involved in frequent

intergenerational exchanges with a child, who interact often

with a child, and who have an affectional relationship with

a child are more likely to plan for care from a child, in

the event of frailty or disability. Conversely, those who

do not have such levels of solidarity with a child are not

likely to plan for care from a child. Thus, the issue is

whether the respondents do or do not have at least one child

with whom the parent-child relationship may be characterized

as one of high solidarity, not one of estimating "average"

solidarity across all parent-child dyads.

This may be characterized as a matter of estimating the

maximum degree of solidarity older parents experience with

any of their children. Random selection of a child would

result in systematic underestimates of maximum solidarity,

since the procedure might result in selection of the child


with which the parent shares the most solidarity or of the

child with whom the parent shares less solidarity. The

randomly-selected child might live a considerable distance

away from the parent, while the parent lives very near or

even with another child who is intimately and extensively

involved in the parent's daily life. If random procedures

had been used, selecting against the latter type of child

would be problematic for our theoretical thinking because

such parents would be assigned much lower values on our

measures of solidarity than they are actually experiencing,

whereas selecting against the former type of child would

have been less problematic.

However, the objective, implied by our theoretical

framework, was to obtain information about the child with

whom the parent shares the most solidarity or, as we have

termed it, a "focal child." This selection was accomplished

prior to the measurement of the various dimensions of family

solidarity. We used two criteria to choose this focal

child: (1) the child who helps the parent with the greatest

number of Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) or (2) the child

whom the parent sees most often. Since 344 of the sample

parents (95%) did not need help with ADLs, the latter

criterion was used in most cases. More consistent with the

way in which we are conceptualizing family solidarity, the

selection of the child most involved in the parent's life


helps to ensure that the extent to which children are

involved in parents' lives is not underestimated.

However, in selecting a focal child, we are aware, as

Roberts and Bengtson (1990) suggest, that by not using

random selection procedures the ranges of some variables may

be constrained. For example, quite logically one would

expect higher levels of parental affectional and

associational solidarity with the child seen most often than

with other children which may result in skewness among these

variables, Again, however, our interest in this research is

in the various levels of solidarity found in the parent

generation and not in the average amounts of solidarity

found in families. Thus, while not the ideal situation, and

given our constraints in conducting this study, the

advantages of using a focal child outweigh the disadvantages

of systematically underrepresenting the various dimensions

of solidarity, as experienced by older parents, which would

occur if we had randomly selected a child.

Measurement of Variables and Concepts

A telephone questionnaire instrument was used to assess

the variables and concepts relevant to our research here.

The complete survey is contained in the appendix. In

general, the measures of the various forms of solidarity

(i.e., giving aid, plans for care,contact, affection) were

derived from summing scores of the measures on the variables


or scales to yield indexes. In most cases, we were simply

interested in the frequency with which an event occurred;

for example, the frequency of contact with a focal child;

the frequency of choosing someone of the child generation

versus others; the mean number of tasks that a focal child

helped a parent with or that a parent helped a focal child

with. Thus, the summing of scores was sufficient and

appropriate for our purposes.

In two cases, however, we deemed it necessary to

conduct preliminary, exploratory analyses before creating

indexes in order to determine the underlying dimensions of

each. Affectional solidarity and normative solidarity are

not seen as single measurable entities that can be appraised

easily. That is, they are discrete events of complex

theoretical phenomena made up of many interrelated

variables. For example, affectional solidarity in families

can be thought of as intergenerational emotional attachment

and the quality of parent-child relationships; normative

solidarity could be viewed as the generalistic expectations

that parents have for help from children with regard to

financial or physical support, proximate living, or visiting

(note that we are not arguing that these are the only

measures of affection or normative filial expectations).

The constructs of affectional and normative solidarity,

therefore, can be derived from the measurement of other,

directly observable variables.


The appropriate statistical technique for identifying

and testing the "fit" of these unifying theoretical

constructs is factor analysis. We used it as a tool in

determining which variables best described affectional and

normative solidarity before determining the most reliable

(i.e., internally consistent) scales for each of the

constructs. While we could have used the individual items

in our questionnaire regarding affectional and normative

solidarity, given our theoretical thinking regarding these

two constructs, we first wanted to test the goodness-of-fit

of the theoretical model to empirical measures of the

constructs. Thus, in this study, the factor analysis was

exploratory and preliminary to reliability testing because

we first wanted to determine the minimum number of factors

that could account for the observed covariations in the data

(KIim & Mueller, 1978) (i.e., the joint variance, or lack

thereof, between how much a parent trusts a focal child and

how much the parent understands the child).

For the factor analyses, we utilized two procedures to

test the goodness-of-fit of our model to our measures. We

used principal components extraction, an extraction method

that is more suitable for small samples (Bickel & Doksum,

1977). This extraction method determines the number of

uncorrelated principal components (factors) needed to

describe the data. For the rotation phase of the factor

analyses, we used oblique rotation, which allows the factor


loadings to be correlated, a situation which is much more

reflective of the real world (Rummel, 1967). The results of

these procedures will be discussed in more detail in the

sections on affectional and normative solidarity. After

determining which variables when with which factors, we

created scales of the variables identified from each of the

factors and conducted a series of reliability tests on these

scales. The scale with the highest internal consistency (as

measured by coefficient alpha) on affectional and normative

solidarity was determined as the most reliable measure of

each construct. Note that scores on the final scales were

derived from the actual summed scores and not from factor

scores. This decision to use summed scores assumes equal

weighing of the items, whereas the use of factor scores

would not; in hindsight, it may have been more accurate to

have used factor scores in deriving the final scales.

The following is a discussion of the specific measures

used, as well as the summary statistics for each measure.

Outcome Variables

Functional solidarity-giving aid. The giving of aid by

an elderly parent to the focal child was measured by asking

the respondents if they had given their child help with six

activities in the past month with "yes" (coded 1) and "no"

(coded 0) response choices (Lee et al., 1994b; see appendix,

question 43a-f, pp. 189). The activities were advice on a


decision (1 = 35.6%), financial assistance (1 = 23.5%),

gifts other than money (1 = 42.2%), help with a household

task or chore (1 = 23.9%), help with babysitting or child

care (1 = 27.1%), and help with transportation (1 = 23.6%).

Affirmative responses are summed to yield a total score on

this index; the range is 0-6 and the mean number of tasks

that older parents help their children with is 1.77 (s.d. =


Functional solidarity-receiving aid. The receiving of

aid from an adult child was measured by asking the parents

similar questions to the aid given questions with the

exception of babysitting or child care (Lee et al., 1994b;

see appendix, question 42a-e, p. 188). Nearly 33 percent

(32.9%) of these parents had received advice from the focal

child in the past month; 6.9 percent had received financial

assistance; 40.3 percent had received gifts other than

money; 42.1 percent had received help with a household task

or chore; and 29.1 percent had received help with

transportation from the focal child. As with aid given,

affirmative responses are summed to generate a total score

on aid received; the range is 0-5 and the mean number of

tasks that children help their older parents with is 1.51

(s.d. = 1.31).

Plans for care. Plans for care were adapted from a

scale by Cantor (1976). Respondents were read five

situations of increasing seriousness, in which they were


asked who, if anyone, they would turn to in the event that

they were in that situation (see appendix, question 47a-e,

pp. 190-192). There were ten possible resources for help.

These were (1) a son; (2) a daughter; (3) the respondent

herself or himself; (4) a son-in-law; (5) a daughter-in-law;

(6) another relative; (7) a friend; (8) a neighbor; (9) a

social agency or, where applicable, a nursing home; (10)

other helpers. If they chose their spouse, respondents were

asked to assume the spouse was not available and to pick one

of the other ten choices. The situations related to

loneliness and wanting to talk; help getting to the

doctor's; not having enough money to cover a very big

medical bill; becoming seriously ill or disabled and needing

help with activities of daily living, such as getting into

and out of bed; and becoming unable to live on their own due

to failing health.

Several methodological issues arise with regard to this

variable. First, since our interest here is in whether or

not the older parent chooses a child or child-in-law, this

variable is coded 1 = a son, daughter, daughter-in-law, and

son-in-law (regardless of age ranking) and 0 = other. The

adult child or child-in-law scores are summed for the

proportion of adult children selected. We made the decision

to categorize children-in-law with children, in plans for

care,because our interest with this variable is in terms of

dependence on children (not a specific child), which would