Ageing and Society

Research Article

‘What are Families For?’: On Family Solidarity and Preference for Help*

Svein Olav Daatlanda1

a1 Norwegian Institute of Gerontology, Oscarsgt. 36, 0258 Oslo 2, Norway.


Norwegian elderly people today are clearly more aware of public help and services compared to the late 1960s, and a growing number of them prefer public rather than family help. A study in Oslo found that a majority would turn to the public services when in need of long-term help, even when children were living close by. Children or other informal helpers were preferred over the public services only when there was a need for short-term assistance. The growing preference for public help is taken primarily as a response to increased availability of public services, and not as a reflection of weaker inter-generational solidarity.


* A draft of this paper was presented at the conference ‘Inter-generational Relations and Equity: Individual and Collective Perspectives’, European Behavioural and Social Science Research Section of the IAG, Dubrovnik, 1989. I am grateful to Gunhild Hagestad and Susan Lingsom for their comments. They are, however, not responsible for whatever shortcomings remain.