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CARe in an INterGenerational context How do changes in family formation trajectories reflect in later intergenerational relations? A three-generations perspective

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CARING (CARe in an INterGenerational contextHow do changes in family formation trajectories reflect in later intergenerational relations? A three-generations perspective)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2019-08-31

Within an ageing Europe with rising multi-generational living, reciprocal informal support between generations is changing. CARING seeks to understand what living longer means for care provision and family interactions. How do family-related choices made in the earlier life course reflect on the potential to be cared from, and care for, other generations?

Life choices in the process of family formation may impact the availability of care and support at older age. Marrying, having children, divorcing, and remarrying are interconnected events that can establish or break core network relations and impact on care availability in later age. The project examined whether earlier family trajectories predicted emotional and practical support received and given at older ages.
Data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) were used for 5 EU countries in waves 3 and 4. Waves 6 and 7 were added upon release. With a life course approach, sequence analysis identified typical family trajectories over 31 years (ages 16 to 46). Different sets of multilevel regression models predicted the associations between these family trajectories and several outcomes in older ages (at 50+ years). The size of emotional support networks; help given and received; and contact frequency between generations. In addition, the analyses extended to more recent birth cohorts and 10 more countries.
CARING explored informal support in five countries: Italy, (East and West) Germany, France, Denmark and Czech Republic (later extended to Austria, Sweden, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Estonia and Croatia). What are the changes in family structures and in the timing of family-related events over time, across birth cohorts and countries? (WP1) How have family structure changes (later childbearing, childlessness, family dissolution and reformation) affected the amount of caring responsibilities of the intermediate generation? (WP2-5).

Estimates on the parental and children's generations revealed a reducing number of children and siblings, and increasing partnership dissolution and reformation across birth cohorts; and a higher distance from network members, especially after family disruption and for highly educated. Analyzing family formation trajectories from SHARELIFE (waves 3 and 7) revealed 9 typical family formation trajectories.

Multilevel regression models showed associations between the 9 family trajectories and the size of individuals' emotional support networks. Emotional support network members are confidants, with whom older people most often discuss important things, who provide advice and emotional support, not necessarily requiring geographical proximity. Independently of their current family circumstances, long-term single, childless and individuals with just one child tended to have smaller emotional support networks later in life. The timing of family formation (partnership or childbirth) was unrelated with later informal support, emotional or practical. Receiving care and practical support were on the contrary best predicted by current family circumstances, namely the presence of a partner and children living in close proximity.

Although early family trajectories are predictive of the size of older age individuals' emotional support networks, they do not associate with the probability of receiving (or giving) practical help or personal care from(/to) outside one's household. It is instead the distance to one's support network, the number of living children and the presence of a partner that strongly predict receiving (or giving) informal support. Early family trajectories play only an indirect role insofar as larger emotional support networks predict more care exchanges.

Looking at the provision of informal care across 3 generations, the caregiving intensity to one's parents, parents-in-law and to children or grandchildren revealed the very gendered nature of care, with women doing the larger share. But do men shift their care responsibilities towards older generations to their spouses? Rather than to partners, parental care is more likely shifted across siblings, but more to sisters than brothers, especially when caregiving becomes intense. Finally, although upward and downward caring responsibilities might compete, individuals who are more inclined to provide care tend to do so in both directions.

Overall, results show that gender strongly structures intergenerational relations and that early family behavior is a predictor of the size and the composition of the emotional support networks enjoyed later in life. Family trajectories do not predict instead, or only indirectly, contacts and care exchanges. It is the structure of current family circumstance that best predicts practical help.

Dissemination was through presentations in 15 conferences and workshops, 1 paper published in the European Sociological Review, a second paper under evaluation and a third paper on the enlarged country-set that will be presented at the Demography and Inequality Final workshop (Nov. 2019) and will soon after be submitted to a journal. The project organized 4 stakeholders meetings in Berlin and Turin, published 2 Policy Briefs (1 in cooperation with Population Europe), organized a High-level Experts Meeting in Brussels (with population Europe) and communicated the results of the research in 8 high-school classes across 3 schools in Turin and Berlin (addressing over 200 students). Other outreach activities included the project website, a video (4 mins.) with subtitles in 4 languages, a Press Release, 2 articles (Project Repository Journal and WZB Mitteilung) and a display exhibition at the Researchers' Night in Turin.
The project's results provide new evidence on the role played by early family life courses in shaping later-age circumstances and vulnerabilities. They contribute to the understanding of the overlapping of emotional and practical support networks and the risks of isolation and care shortage in older age. Childless, widowed and older persons living single risk being more exposed to the risks of both lessened emotional support and shortage of informal care provision.

The contribution to the literature is fourfold. First, results illustrate the relevance of exploring the role of family trajectories as a process (focusing on histories rather than single events) influencing later social relations. Second, they provide a comparative longitudinal description of family histories across a substantial number of EU countries and several birth cohorts. Understanding how family histories contribute to shaping emotional support networks and/or elicit exchanges of support is crucial to the development of policy tools aimed at preventing social exclusion and securing care for older persons. Third, by looking at both the emotional support networks and other relations providing help, the study advances our understanding of different forms of intergenerational care provision and their predictors. Finally, a growing mismatch between care demands and the capacity to respond with informal provision is to be expected. Longer employment careers will conflict with demands from older and younger generations. Women's careers and pension contributions are particularly at risk from informal care provision in those countries where public service provision is lower. Pursuing more gender equality in informal caregiving might mitigate these risks.