Social Policy Attitudes and Social Capital in Europe
Edited by Heikki Ervasti, Jørgen Goul Andersen, Torben Fridberg and Kristen Ringdal
Chapter 5: Children in the Family and Welfare State Attitudes: Altruism or Self-Interest?
Mare Ainsaar INTRODUCTION Social security in all countries is founded partially on the solidarity principle. Issues of altruism and self-interest are important motivational triggers of solidarity networks and public attitudes might be the key element in understanding the future development of the welfare state. Although public attitudes are decisive, our knowledge about their formation is still limited. A great amount of research in psychology has been dedicated to the investigation of attitude formation, but only a limited number of analyses can be found concerning the nature of social policy attitudes. There is evidence that attitude formation is a complex and dynamic process, which is influenced simultaneously by several individual and social factors. While unselfish solidarity cannot be denied in societies, a substantial amount of literature concerning welfare refers also to selfinterest as a possible factor in attitude formation. Using the case of people with children, we are interested in examining whether parents are more empathic or selfish in character. This chapter analyses how children in the family affect individual attitudes towards the different domains of governmental responsibilities and what kind of individual and country-level factors might shape these attitudes. Raising children demands additional effort from parents in terms of time, skills and financial resources. Not all parents manage to cope easily with the additional tasks of child raising and the parents’ personal well-being after having a child is dependent on social policy. Because of their specific needs, parents might have an interest in supporting more government action in the domains...
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