Ageing and Society


Financial support and practical help between older parents and their middle-aged children in Europe


a1 Research Institute for Sociology, University of Cologne, Germany.

a2 Mannheim Research Institute for the Economics of Aging, University of Mannheim, Germany.


Financial support and practical help between older parents and their middle-aged children vary greatly among the regions of Europe. Northern and Western Europe is characterised by a high likelihood of practical help to and financial transfers from parents, while in Southern and Eastern Europe these kinds of support are much less likely. Financial transfers to parents show an almost opposite distribution, with more children supporting a parent in Southern and Eastern welfare regimes. Using the second wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe encompassing 14 European countries conducted in 2006–07, these country differences can be linked to different social policies. Controlling for different aspects of country composition in terms of individual characteristics and family structures impacting on intergenerational support, it was found that the more services and transfers provided publicly, the more people aged 50 or more years helped their older parents sporadically, and the less monetary support they provided. On the other hand, generous public transfers enabled parents aged 64 or more years to support their offspring financially. Thus, neither ‘crowding in’ nor ‘crowding out’, but a modification of private transfers depending on public transfers and vice versa is found, suggesting a specialisation of private and public support.

(Accepted October 14 2010)

(Online publication December 22 2010)


c1 Address for correspondence: Christian Deindl, University of Cologne, Research Institute for Sociology, Greinstrasse 2, 50939 Cologne, Germany. E-mail: