Family Structure and Intergenerational Exchanges

David J. Eggebeen

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193 Scopus citations


This article documents differentials in patterns of exchange of aid and assistance between elderly American parents and their non-coresidential adult children by marital status and other components of family structure using data drawn from the National Survey of Families and Households. Descriptive results show that overall levels of giving and receiving support between elderly parents and their adult children are not especially high. However, these patterns vary considerably by marital status of the aging parent and of their adult children, with widowed and divorced parents less likely to provide support to their children. In contrast, widowed but not divorced parents are significantly more likely to receive support. Even with controls for demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the parents and availability of adult children, parents who are widowed or divorced give less to their children, although there are few marital-status differences for reception of support. The marital status of children appears to be less important to the exchange process. However, the proportion of children who are stepchildren exerts a strong negative influence on giving assistance to children. Among the other characteristics of family structure that exert an effect on exchanges, the number of adult children remains strongly positively associated with both giving and receiving most forms of support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-447
Number of pages21
JournalResearch on Aging
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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