Family support in the postmodern society: made-to-measure?

Trees De Bruycker, Ghent University

Family support was traditionally unconditional and based primarily on the ‘biological distance’ to the family member. However, within the ideas of the postmodern society the unconditionality of family relations has been questioned. With greater individualism and voluntarism within personal relationships, relations with significant others, including kin, are made-to-measure with the needs and demands of the individual in his ‘do-it-yourself biography’ (Beck, 1992). The second demographic transition theory made clear that individuals with more postmodern ideas will be more likely to live in new family types. In this paper we want to test whether relationships with family members differ between members in postmodern family types and individuals in classic family types. More specifically we test whether the exchanges support within the family network of individuals in postmodern nuclear families (cohabitants, single parents, divorced singles, stepfamily members) is less unconditional and more specific than that of individuals in classic nuclear families (married individuals, widowed singles, stepfamilies en single parents based on widowhood). Data from the first wave of the Netherlands Kinship Panel Study (NKPS, N=8155) are used to study the support exchanged with parents, siblings and adult children. We look at instrumental (household, odd jobs), financial, and emotional (advice and interest) support received from and given to close kin. First results show no clear overall differences between individuals in classic and new family types when we look at the support from parents, indicating that parents give support to their children, irrespective of the child‘s family situation. Differences in support from siblings and adult children between individuals in new and classic family types are however found. Also of importance is that the first results show no compensation effects; those who get less support from one relative do not, in general, receive more support from other close kin.

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Presented in Poster Session 1