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European University Institute Slide 1 Social networks Martin Kohli (European University Institute, Florence) & Harald Künemund (University of Vechta) ESF.

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Presentation on theme: "European University Institute Slide 1 Social networks Martin Kohli (European University Institute, Florence) & Harald Künemund (University of Vechta) ESF."— Presentation transcript:

1 European University Institute Slide 1 Social networks Martin Kohli (European University Institute, Florence) & Harald Künemund (University of Vechta) ESF Forward Looks Workshop Well-Being of the Elderly (Lausanne, October 24, 2008)

2 European University Institute Slide 2 Overview 1.Concepts & policy questions 2.The structure of family networks 3.Benefits and costs of family networks 4.Trends in network evolution 5.Conclusions: Remaining gaps in knowledge

3 European University Institute Slide 3 1. Concepts & policy questions  Social networks are constituted by socially interacting units or actors at different levels of aggregation  Focus on social networks of elderly individuals (structure, exchange, benefits, costs)  Social connectedness: mutually exclusive concepts?  activities  networks  social capital  Kin and non-kin networks: Hierarchical compensation vs. task specificity

4 European University Institute Slide 4 Network benefits  Social networks are crucial for the well-being of elderly individuals…  Buffering of life course risks  Health  Mortality  …and the society at large  Support  Productive activities  Social participation  How can they be supported in turn?

5 European University Institute Slide 5 2. The structure of family networks: Marital status by age group

6 European University Institute Slide 6 Number of living children by age group

7 European University Institute Slide 7 Proximity of nearest child by age group

8 European University Institute Slide 8 Residential proximity by country

9 European University Institute Slide 9 Co-residence with adult child by age and country

10 European University Institute Slide Benefits and costs of family networks: Transfers of money and time

11 European University Institute Slide 11 Balance of financial transfers and social support by age group and country

12 European University Institute Slide 12 Costs and burdens: „Sandwich“ situations

13 European University Institute Slide 13 Competing demands “Soft” and “hard” sandwich situations Consequences of being sandwiched have often been described as being dramatic, but these situations seem to be very rare in all western societies. There is also no general deterioration of well-being simply because of the additional existence of younger generations within the family – these might be of help instead. Increasing labour force participation of women will result in an increase of “hard” sandwich constellations.

14 European University Institute Slide Trends in network evolution a)changes in family demography (fertility, childlessness, nuptiality, later marriage and parenthood, divorce and family recomposition) b)changes in norms and values (gender roles, labour market participation, responsibility for care) c)changing individual resources and capabilities (education, health, wealth, experience with cultural diversity) d)changes in opportunities for mobility (migration, portability of social rights)

15 European University Institute Slide 15 Risks for family networks  Factors that may weaken the extent to which family networks can be activated in times of need:  Increasing geographical distance  Increasing burden due to competing demands from parents, children, and the labour market  Fading norms of solidarity and responsibility  Will non-kin social networks fill in the gap?

16 European University Institute Slide 16 Public and private support A basic assumption was that the development of the welfare state would crowd out the private support within families. However, welfare state provisions, far from crowding out family support, enable the family in turn to provide intergenerational support and transfers an improves the quality of releationships. Reductions in welfare state spending are therefore likely to result in less family solidarity.

17 European University Institute Slide 17 Results Co-residence among adult family generations has decreased massively in all Western societies, but by extending the boundaries of „togetherness“, the situation turns out to be very different. Findings on the frequency of contact, emotional closeness, and the exchange of support confirm that adult generations in the family, even in countries with weaker family traditions and larger geographical distance, remain closely linked. Networks have benefits and costs.

18 European University Institute Slide Conclusion: Remaining gaps in knowledge  Wider kinship networks, e.g., role of siblings or in-laws. (demography, relevance in case of need)  Special groups: childless, divorced (availability of compensation)  Kin and non-kin networks of elderly migrants, both for those ageing abroad and those migrating after retirement (‘amenity migration’)  Gender differences in networks and exchange activities (e.g., incidence of caring men, appropriate supportive measures)  Informal sociability and solidarity (incidence and reliability)  Regional disparities in ageing and service provision)

19 European University Institute Slide 19 Research needs  Comparisons are needed among European societies, but also with the other advanced societies that face similar challenges.  Analyses of network patterns and network salience over the life course are required to overcome the narrow focus on specific life periods such as older age.  Comparative longitudinal (panel) data needs to be expanded.  Interactions between social actors and feedback patterns have to be studied longitudinally.  The impact of new communication technologies on the social relations of the future elderly must be explored.

20 European University Institute Slide 20 Titel  Punkte

21 European University Institute Slide 21 Ageing societies and family solidarity Intergenerational family solidarity is an important provider of welfare Insurance for children‘s life course risks (e.g., unemployment, divorce) Support for children‘s parenting Care for dependent elderly Families provide generational integration Proximity, contact, emotional ties Financial and instrumental linkages, equalization of disparities between generations But are families still able to perform?

22 European University Institute Slide 22 Limits of family solidarity Culture shift: Individualization Weaker family structure: Divorce, singlehood, childlessness Potential overload of the “sandwich generation” (especially women) Dilemma between caring and later exit from the labor force  Need for new arrangements between employment and care

23 European University Institute Slide 23 Is family support „good“ support? Family transfers are selective and may deepen social inequalities Intergenerational family relations are „ambivalent“ Generations do not want to depend on each other Families may be a source of conflict Family carers may suffer from overload Family care may constrain employment careers But closeness and support outweigh conflicts Families promote social and economic well-being and inclusion  It pays to help the family support its members

24 European University Institute Slide 24 Heterogeneity Class Regions, urban-rural Ethnic/migrant families Divorce, family recomposition Monoparental families Number of children, childlessness

25 European University Institute Slide 25 Conclusions Intergenerational family solidarity is important for demographic reproduction and social integration, and as an insurance system for life course risks But this solidarity potential of the family is threatened by current changes, and cannot be taken for granted any more Family support may be costly for those who give (especially women), and lead to individual and policy dilemmas One dilemma is between family care work and employment (not only for young parents but also for the young elderly)  Generational mainstreaming: Systematic „generational check“ of all public policies Check not only for direct effects (on the primary target persons) but also for indirect effects (on the other generations)


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