[Importance of family for quality of life of the elderly in a social and cultural comparison]

Z Gerontol Geriatr. 2002 Aug;35(4):335-42. doi: 10.1007/s00391-002-0107-4.
[Article in German]


This paper explores the role of the family and its contribution to quality of life in old age under a comparative perspective, looking at different European welfare states (Norway, Germany, Spain and Israel). The literature demonstrates a consistent association between well-being and social networks in old age. Intergenerational family relations seem to be of special relevance in their contribution to health and well-being of older family members. Key features of intergenerational relationships include association, help, and support. However, in modern welfare states, certain tasks traditionally performed by families are covered by services. To assess the relative impact of families and the welfare state and to understand the interaction between them both a comparative perspective is needed analyzing diverse cultures and welfare regimes. Cultural and societal contexts are of central importance in exploring and understanding the complex association between family relations and the quality of life of the elderly. It is hypothesized that there is an interaction between family structure and welfare state transfers. This hypothesis states that the relationship between family structure and quality of life depends on the type of welfare state and welfare state transfers and services. Hence, the relationship between quality of life and family support should be strong only in those cases where welfare state transfers are low. The empirical results partly confirm the theoretical assumptions of welfare state regime dependence of the children's effect on the elder's quality of life. Three out of the four analyzed countries show results that strongly support the hypothesis of an intervening effect of welfare state systems on the connection between family and overall quality of life in old age. However, further analyses are needed. First, more sensitive indicators of parent-child relations have to be used. Second, needs and their intervening effects on the direct linkages between children and quality of life have to be taken into account in more complex analyses. Third, more elaborated indicators of "quality of life" should be used in future analyses.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • English Abstract
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations*
  • Old Age Assistance
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Population Dynamics
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Social Support*