Intergenerational family solidarity
- Structural solidarity: This means how factors like geographical distance can constrain or enhance interaction between family members. It is easier to give and receive help, care and support if family members live near one another, but new technologies, such as Skype, can aid communication between family members who live far from one another.
- Associational solidarity: This dimension refers to the frequency of social contact and shared activities between family members. Some adults visit their parents very frequently, others less often.
- Affectual solidarity: Solidarity can manifest itself in feelings of emotional closeness, affirmation, and intimacy between family members, also known as affectual solidarity. Some ageing parents and their adult children declare that they are very close to each other; others feel more distant.
- Functional solidarity: Exchanges of practical and financial assistance and support between family members are examples of functional solidarity. Examples of functional solidarity are gifts of money but also very practical things such as buying groceries, preparing meals, allowing family members to move in with you, or looking after their care needs. Older family members can be both beneficiaries and sources of functional solidarity. For instance, some look after their grandchildren; others receive visits from their children to help with household tasks.
- Normative solidarity: Normative solidarity refers to the strength of obligation felt towards other family members. In some families, there is a strong belief in the need for and importance of family cohesion and assistance between family members; in others, family members consider that it is quite acceptable for them to feel and to be very independent of each other.
- Think of some examples of how older adults show this type of solidarity towards their adult children and grandchildren.
- Also think of situations where this type of solidarity might be limited.
- In the Comments section below, describe how important family solidarity is to you and how you maintain relationships across the generations.
Virpi Timonen is a Professor in Social Policy and Ageing at Trinity College Dublin.
Strategies for Successful Ageing
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