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Adult children providing support to their aging parents: mixed motives over the family life course

Feb 2016

This is a joint event between the Oxford Martin School and the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing

Speaker: Professor Merril Silverstein, Oxford Martin Visiting Fellow, Oxford Institute of Population Ageing & the Marjorie Cantor Endowed Professor in Aging, Aging Studies Institute, Syracuse University, USA

Summary: This presentation explores the question of why adult children provide support and care to their older parents. Absent strong bio-evolutionary hypotheses, the effort to understand these motives has largely focused on social explanations, primarily those related to social-affective connections and the norm of reciprocity. Using data from a multi-panel and multi-generational data set, Professor Silverstein will present evidence for long-term reciprocity and family culture as forces that drive support provision from children. He will then theoretically integrate micro-family interactions within the broader social contexts of culture and the welfare state to develop an emergent framework of intergenerational exchanges under the concept of moral capital.

Merril Silverstein, PhD, is the inaugural Marjorie Cantor Professor of Aging in the Department of Sociology and School of Social Work at Syracuse University. He received his doctorate in sociology from Columbia University. His research focuses on aging within the context of family life, specifically intergenerational relationships over the life-course and international perspectives on aging families.

He has over 130 publications, including the edited books Intergenerational Relations Across Time and Place, Handbook of Theories of Aging, and From Generation to Generation: Kin and Cohort in an Aging Society. He is principal investigator of the Longitudinal Study of Generations, a project that has tracked multigenerational families over four decades, and has projects in China, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Israel on topics of aging and intergenerational relations. He is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, the Brookdale National Fellowship Program, and the Fulbright International Senior Scholars Program, and currently serves as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences