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Session Overview
RN01_RN13_09a_P_JS: JOINT SESSION: How do Increasing Childlessness and Limited Family Support Affect Older Adults?
Friday, 01/Sep/2017:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Dirk Hofäcker, University of Duisburg-Essen
Location: PD.2.34
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: D, Level: 2.
Joint Session of RN01 Ageing in Europe and RN13 Sociology of Families and Intimate Lives

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Support networks of childless older people in Europe

Christian Deindl

University of Cologne, Germany

Research on the social networks of childless (older) people up to now produced quite ambivalent results – especially in comparison to parents and in older age. There are studies claiming that there is no real difference between childless people and parents in terms of wellbeing. Others found that social networks of parents and childless are similar and that the childless elderly receive as much support from their social network as parents do. Some, however, do find differences and claim – almost – the exact opposites: childless people feel worse, the have smaller networks, receive less support, etc. With the social network module of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) it is now possible to analyze social networks in a comparative study using reliable measures of social networks. We will use this data to analyze if and to what extent childless older people differ in their social networks from parents. Important network measures are the size of the social network, as well as its quality in terms of contact and closeness with its members and the satisfaction with one’s social network. The analyses show that childless older people have somewhat smaller networks than parents, are also less satisfied with their social networks, are not as close with its members and have less contact with them. We thus find substantial differences between parents and childless older people concerning their social networks apart from the lack of children.

Students’ attitudes about ageing and intentions to work with older adults after graduation

Stella Bettencourt da Camara

ISCSP-ULISBOA - School of Social and Political Sciences – University of Lisbon CAPP - Center for Administration and Public Policies, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal

The increase of older population has two important implications for health care and social work students: (1) an increase demand for social workers and health care professionals; (2) the need for social workers and health care professionals to be prepared for working with old people and for dealing with the changes that this ageing will bring to all settings and fields of practice. Now, the attitudes of social workers, doctors, nurses and physiotherapists toward old people can have a significant impact on the quality the services they render. Research conducted in several countries has shown that health care and social work students, exhibit negative or neutral attitudes towards the elderly and are reluctant to work with them after graduation because they consider not to be a priority area and belittling in terms of status and unattractive as occupation. Is this also true of the Portuguese case? In the present study the Kogan Attitudes toward Old People Scale (1961) was applied to 620 social work, medical, nursing and physiotherapy Portuguese university students.

The aim is (1) - Present some of the results thus obtained, namely with regard to the relationship between the students’ intentions to work with older adults after graduation and (a) age; (b) gender; (c) attitudes towards old people; (d) had lived with grandparents; (e) contact with older adults and (2) characteristics of two typologies: i) students who would prefer not to work with older persons and; ii) students who would like to work professionally with them after graduation resulted from using the Latent Class Model and the BIC (Bayes’ Information Criterion).

Key Words: Attitudes, Ageing, Kogan Attitudes toward Old People Scale, Heath Care and Social Work Students, Portugal

The different faces of childlessness in later life

Martin Kohli1, Marco Albertini2

1European University Institute, Italy; 2Università di Bologna, Italy

Childlessness in later life is the subject of widely held misconceptions. One of the most misleading ones is that childless elderly people are all of one kind. Contrary to this assumption, we show that parental status is a continuum, ranging from full childlessness across several intermediary conditions to full current natural parenthood.

In a study of the elderly population across 11 European countries based on the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), we show that “social parents” (i.e., people who have no natural children but who have adopted, foster, or stepchildren) are more similar to natural parents than to non-parents. Family recomposition thus does not seem to inhibit intergenerational exchanges as long as social parents have sufficient contact with their social children. In contrast, parents who have lost contact with their children – natural or otherwise – or have survived them have a heightened demand for formal care in later life.

In a second study based on the US Health and Retirement Study (HRS), we analyze how childlessness affects the likelihood that disabled elderly people receive informal care, and nondisabled ones anticipate future informal care. In general, the results do not hold up the claim that in the US non-parents face significant support deficits in old age. Compared to natural parents, step-parents get less help from their children but more support from their partners. The analysis of support expectations reveals that parents as well as childless people tend to overestimate the availability of informal care in case of need.

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