a1 School for Development Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich, Norfolk, UK.
Many have presumed that in developing countries contact with children is beneficial to older people's wellbeing, and particularly that women receive more support from children than men because of their lifelong commitment to family responsibilities. This study questions these stylised notions through an analysis of 22 life histories of older women and men living in a district with high rates of social exclusion in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It focuses on the subjective accounts of relationships with children and grandchildren and their influence on current wellbeing. The life histories reveal complex lived experiences and the significance of key events. The informants speak of the anxiety and harm caused by struggling children, about problems of remote relations with successful children, and of the insecurity of the neighbourhood. The analysis contrasts a materialistic interpretation of the influence of children on older people's wellbeing with the informants' more holistic evaluation of family relationships. By applying a lifecourse framework, we demonstrate among other things that children may be a key source of vulnerability for older people, that the gendering of parent-child relations and later-life wellbeing is nuanced, and that both local and national conditions influence relationships with specific children, with implications for the intergenerational transmission of wellbeing.
(Accepted October 31 2007)