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Residential care and care to community-dwelling parents: out-selection, in-selection and diffusion of responsibility

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 May 2016

Department of Social Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK.
Department of Public Administration and Sociology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Address for correspondence: Thijs van den Broek, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Social Policy, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK E-mail:


Research suggests that adult children are less likely to provide care to community-dwelling parents when beds in residential care settings are more widely available. The underlying mechanisms are not well understood. Drawing on data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) on 1,214 impaired parent–child dyads from 12 countries, we find that adult children are less likely to provide care in countries where beds in residential care settings are more widely available because (a) parents’ care needs are less severe in such countries (out-selection hypothesis) and (b) adult children and impaired parents are less likely to share a household in such countries (in-selection hypothesis). Finally (c), after taking these two factors into account, adult children remain less likely to provide care in countries where beds in residential care settings are more widely available (diffusion of responsibility hypothesis). Plausibly, being able to rely on residential care undermines adult children's sense of urgency to step in and provide care to their parents.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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