Family obligations and support behavior: a United States-Netherlands comparison

Pearl Dykstra, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)
Teresa M. Cooney, University of Missouri

Numerous studies have examined family obligations, and many have examined intergenerational support, but few researchers have looked at their connection. We examine links between family obligations and support both up and down family lineages in the United States and the Netherlands. Our data are from the third wave of the National Survey of Families and Households (2001–2003) and the first wave of the Netherlands Kinship Panel Study (2002–2004). As expected, American adults hold stronger family obligations than their Dutch counterparts, but actually are less likely to provide instrumental support. Given the lack of public supports for families in the United States relative to the Netherlands, we expected a stronger connection between feelings of obligation to family and support behaviour among Americans than among the Dutch. Consistent with this hypothesis, results showed that family obligations are stronger predictors of support in the U.S. than in the Netherlands.

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Presented in Session 9: Prospects for the family support of older people and their implications