The impact of family structure and disruption on intergenerational emotional exchange in Eastern Europe

Eur J Ageing. 2012 Jun;9(2):155-167. doi: 10.1007/s10433-011-0207-3. Epub 2011 Nov 5.


Demographic trends across Europe involve a decrease in fertility and mortality rates, and an increase in divorce and stepfamily formation. Life courses and living arrangements have become less standardized and the structure of families has changed. In this article, we examine to what extent contemporary family structure and composition resulting from demographic changes affect emotional exchange between children and their parents, both from adult child to parent and from parent to child. Because the general level of well-being has been shown to be lower in Eastern Europe, thereby potentially affecting emotional exchange within families, we focus our research on Eastern Europe. We use the "conservation of resources theory" to derive hypotheses on how family structure may affect intergenerational emotional exchange. Family ties are assumed to be important resources of affection that people want to obtain and retain throughout their lives. Data from the Generations and Gender Survey (GGS) are used to test our hypotheses. In general, our data offer more support for the idea that families are resilient than for the often heard assumption that families are in decline as a consequence of the changed family structure and composition.