Ageing and Society

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Ageing and Society (2009), 29:1261-1274 Cambridge University Press
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009


What childless older people give: is the generational link broken?


a1 Department of Educational Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
a2 European University Institute, Florence, Italy.
Article author query
albertini m [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
kohli m [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]


With the increase of childlessness in European societies, its consequences have become a matter of concern. Studies in this field, however, have concentrated on what childless people lack and need in terms of social, financial and moral support. In contrast, this article focuses on what childless people give to their families, friends, unrelated others and to society at large. Using 2004 data on social support and financial transfers given and received by people aged 50 or more years in ten European countries from the Survey of Health Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), the analyses show that the support networks of childless older people tend to be somewhat weaker than those of parents and that links with members of the younger generations in the family are stronger for parents than for those without children. The results also indicate, however, that the differences in transfer behaviour between parents and childless adults are small, and that the support networks of the childless are more diverse than those of parents, and characterised by stronger links with ascendants and lateral relatives and with non-relatives. Moreover, people without children tend to be more intensely involved in charities and comparable organisations.

(Accepted July 15 2009)

Key Words:childlessness; generational link; intergenerational support; intergenerational transfers; family networks; charitable giving


c1 Address for correspondence: Marco Albertini, Dipartimento di Scienze dell'Educazione, Università di Bologna, Via Filippo Re, 6, I-40126 – Bologna, Italy E-mail: