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How demographic changes shape intergenerational solidarity, well-being, and social integration: A multilinks framework

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EU society shaping up across the generations

The MULTILINKS project developed a framework to examine changing social contexts across Europe. The approach focused on society as a whole as well as the interpersonal level in relation to social integration, well-being and intergenerational solidarity.

Climate Change and Environment

Three key premises supported the work of the MULTILINKS consortium on intergenerational solidarity, well-being and social integration. Steering away from a focus only the elderly, the first premise was that ageing and ageing societies affect all age groups. Second, project members underlined the existence of critical interdependencies between family generations and between men and women. Third, they highlighted the need to recognise and distinguish analytical levels, such as individuals, dyads (parent–child, couples), family units, regions and countries. On this basis, researchers examined multiple linkages in families, across time, and between national and regional contexts as well as individual behaviour, well-being and values. The approach incorporated methodological strategies that support sound policymaking for maximum impact of research results. Three patterns in legal and policy frameworks were distinguished in order to understand the family/state division of responsibility for both the elderly and the young. Firstly, 'familialism by default', where there are few or no publicly provided alternatives to family care and financial support. The second is 'supported familialism', where there are policies that support families in their financial and caring responsibilities. Lastly, 'defamilialisation', where needs are partly addressed through public provision (e.g. services, basic income, pensions). As such, public support could be an incentive for as well as facilitator of lightened private family responsibilities. A database with comparative indicators of legal and policy frameworks shaping financial and caring responsibilities in families was developed. This includes all EU-27 countries and Georgia, Norway and Russia. Several studies successfully demonstrated the usefulness of the MULTILINKS database. MULTILINKS partners considered the old and young in families jointly, and took into account differing political, religious and economic histories as well as different welfare state arrangements of different countries. This enabled a more comprehensive understanding of the impact of demographic changes on people's lives. Findings showed that interdependencies between generations (and between men and women) in families are built and reinforced by the legal and policy arrangements in a particular country. MULTILINKS provided illustrations of the ways in which country-specific policies structure family care. For example, in Greece, Spain and Italy there is high reliance on grandparents for childcare. Also, a positive association between family ties and mental well-being is stronger for individuals who have a strong sense of obligation toward family members. Research findings were presented at academic conferences, and published in scientific refereed journals, working papers and other scientific reports. The project also organised two policy conferences bringing together governmental representatives, EU policymakers, consortium members and other researchers. Reports of the conferences are available through the website.

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