Is There a trade-off between caring for children and caring for parents?

Daphna Gans, Ariela Lowenstein, Ruth Katz, Julie Zissimopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given current fertility trends of delayed age at first birth, along with increased life expectancy, more families will likely face parental care decisions while still handling childcare responsibilities. This paper explores whether families who are facing multiple demands for care of both offspring and parents are substituting one type of care for another. More specifically, it asks whether individuals who are engaged in childcare duties to young children are likely to provide lower levels of support to their parents when compared to individuals with older children. Regression models were estimated employing data from Old Age and Autonomy: The Role of Service Systems and Intergenerational Family Solidarity (OASIS), a nationally representative sample of urban population in four European countries (Norway, England, Spain, Germany) and Israel. Taking advantage of a unique dataset, we were able to address the potential trade-off between the younger and the older generations within the family by considering individual, familial and societal factors. Our results demonstrate that adult children are responsive to parental needs and are likely to allocate resources to them when help is needed. However, the existence of a young child aged three-years-old or younger was significantly associated with a lower level of parental support. This finding suggests that intensive childcare duties may indeed hinder adult children's ability to provide parental care. Some country differences were noted with lowest levels of parental support in Norway. Policy makers should consider the development of intergenerational family policies to support families facing multigenerational demands for care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-472
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Comparative Family Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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