Families, Ageing and Social Policy

Families, Ageing and Social Policy

Intergenerational Solidarity in European Welfare States

Globalization and Welfare series

Edited by Chiara Saraceno

This important book offers valuable insights into the way in which social policies and welfare state arrangements interact with family and gender models. It presents the most up-to-date research in the field, based on a variety of national and comparative sources and using different theoretical and methodological approaches. The authors address different forms of support (care, financial, emotional) and employ a bi-directional perspective, exploring both giving and receiving across generations. They illustrate that understanding how generations interact in families helps to reformulate the way issues of intergenerational equity are discussed when addressing the redistributive impact of the welfare state through pensions and health services.

Introduction: Intergenerational Relations in Families – A Micro-Macro Perspective

Chiara Saraceno

Subjects: development studies, family and gender policy, social policy and sociology, ageing, comparative social policy, family and gender policy, sociology and sociological theory, welfare states


Chiara Saraceno PREMISE Intergenerational relations in society and in families are at the core of both continuity and change in the sense that successive generations and cohorts enter social and family systems that have been shaped by preceding generations, and then in their turn reshape them. Intergenerational relations in families are a crucial vehicle for the reproduction of norms and social values. They are also a crucial vehicle for the reproduction of social stratification. Thus, intergenerational relationships should be an important focus of sociological analysis, bridging the micro level of family interactions with the meso and macro levels of social institutions and change. Intergenerational relationships in families have gained the attention of European sociology research only relatively recently, notwithstanding pioneering studies, such as those of Willmott and Young (1964) in the UK and Agnes Pitrou (1977) in France, that showed the importance of kinship ties. Interest in intergenerational relationships as such developed earlier and more systematically in the US, where the focus on the experience of the elderly offered a critical and contrasting view of the family to that shaped by the Parsonsian vision of the isolated nuclear family (e.g., Sussman and Burchinal 1962). As early as 1993, Bengtson and Achenbaum’s important compiled volume mapped out some of the most salient issues posed by ageing societies with regard to intergenerational relations in families and societies.1 For the past two decades, European research has been catching up, however, and from a very early stage has adopted a comparative perspective....