Intergenerational Relations in Older Stepfamilies: A Comparison of France, Germany, and Russia

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2016 Sep;71(5):880-8. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbw046. Epub 2016 Apr 26.


Objectives: Our study examines cross-national variations in intergenerational relations of partnered parents aged 50 and older with adult non-coresident children by family structure (intact vs stepfamilies) and parent-child relationship type (biological tie vs steprelation). We focus on three European countries-France, Germany, and Russia-which have in common a relatively large proportion of stepfamilies, but differ with regard to contextual characteristics potentially impacting the stepfamily-intergenerational-relations nexus.

Method: The analysis is based on data from the Generations and Gender Survey (Wave 1). Our pooled analytical sample consists of 14,309 parent-child relationships derived from responses by 6,590 surveyed parents with adult children living outside the parental household. We consider two core dimensions of intergenerational solidarity as dependent variables, namely frequency of contact and emotional closeness.

Results: Our results support the notion of commonly weaker intergenerational relations in stepfamilies. We also observe differences between biological parent-child ties and steprelations. Compared with their French and German counterparts, there is a weaker association between having a steprelation and parent-child contact frequency as well as a stronger negative correlation between having a steprelation and emotional closeness among Russian respondents.

Discussion: The observed cross-national differences are proposed to result from different economic incentives to form a stepfamily, translating into a stronger "functional" basis of stepfamily intergenerational relations in the Russian context.

Keywords: Cross-national comparison; Europe; Generations and Gender Survey; Intergenerational relations; Stepfamily.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Adult Children / ethnology*
  • Aged
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Female
  • France / ethnology
  • Germany / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations / ethnology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parent-Child Relations / ethnology*
  • Russia / ethnology
  • Young Adult