Hostname: page-component-8448b6f56d-dnltx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-24T00:11:15.029Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Virtue is its own reward? Support-giving in the family and loneliness in middle and old age

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 November 2008

JENNY DE JONG GIERVELD*
Affiliation:
Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI), The Hague.
PEARL A. DYKSTRA
Affiliation:
Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI), The Hague.
*
Address for correspondence: Jenny De Jong Gierveld, NIDI, P.B. 11650, 2502 AR The Hague, The Netherlands. E-mail: gierveld@nidi.nl

Abstract

Gerontologists have emphasised that older adults are not only recipients of support but also important support providers. Using data from the first wave of the Netherlands Kinship Panel Study of 727 middle-generation adults aged 45 to 79 years, we examined the associations between loneliness and giving support up, across and down family lineages. Overall, the findings were consistent more with an altruism perspective, that giving brings rewards, than with an exchange perspective, which emphasises the costs of giving support. The results showed an inverse relationship between the number of generations supported and loneliness, and that those engaged in balanced exchanges with family members in three generations (parents, siblings and children) were generally the least lonely. As regards the direction of support giving, the findings showed that the association between giving support and loneliness was insignificant if the support was for parents, negative for support to siblings, and positive for support to children. Imbalanced support exchanges were differentially associated with loneliness, and depended on the type of family relationship involved. Non-reciprocated support made parents more vulnerable to loneliness, whereas non-reciprocated giving in sibling ties was associated with low levels of loneliness. Imbalanced support giving in relationships with parents was not associated with loneliness.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Agree, E. 2003. Simultaneous care for parents and care for children among mid-life British women and men. Population Trends, 112, 1, 2935.Google Scholar
Arber, S. and Ginn, J. 1990. The meaning of informal care: gender and the contribution of elderly people. Ageing & Society, 10, 4, 429–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Axelrod, R. 1984. The Evolution of Cooperation. Basic, New York.Google Scholar
Batson, C. D. 1998. Altruism and prosocial behaviour. In Gilbert, D. T., Fiske, S. T. and Lindzey, G. (eds) The Handbook of Social Psychology. Volume 2, McGraw-Hill, New York, 282316.Google Scholar
Becker, G. S. 1976. Altruism, egoism, and genetic fitness: economics and socio-biology. Journal of Economic Literature, 14, 3, 817–26.Google Scholar
Bengtson, V. L. 2001. Beyond the nuclear family: the increasing importance of multigenerational bonds. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 63, 1, 116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bengtson, V. L. and Roberts, R. E. L. 1991. Intergenerational solidarity in aging families: an example of formal theory construction. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, 4, 856–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Berkman, L., Glass, T., Brissette, I. and Seeman, T. E. 2000. From social integration to health: Durkheim in the new millennium. Social Science and Medicine, 51, 2, 843–57.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Brody, E. 1981. ‘Women in the middle’ and family help to older people. The Gerontologist, 21, 5, 471–80.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Brown, S. L., Nesse, R. M., Vinokur, A. D. and Smith, D. M. 2003. Providing social support may be more beneficial than receiving it: results from a prospective study of mortality. Psychological Science, 14, 4, 320–7.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Brown, W. M., Consedine, N. S. and Magai, C. 2005. Altruism relates to health in an ethnically diverse sample of older adults. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 60B, 3, P143–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cheal, D. 1983. Intergenerational family transfers. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 45, 4, 805–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Davey, A. and Eggebeen, D. J. 1998. Patterns of intergenerational exchange and mental health. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 53B, 2, P8695.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
De Jong, Gierveld J. 1987. Developing and testing a model of loneliness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 1, 119–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
De Jong, Gierveld J. 1998. A review of loneliness: concepts and definitions, determinants and consequences. Reviews in Clinical Gerontology, 8, 1, 7380.Google Scholar
De Jong, Gierveld J. and Kamphuis, F. 1985. The development of a Rasch-type loneliness scale. Applied Psychological Measurement, 9, 3, 289–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
De Jong, Gierveld J. and Van Tilburg, T. 1999. Manual of the Loneliness Scale. Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
De Jong, Gierveld J., Van Tilburg, T. and Dykstra, P. A. 2006. Loneliness and social isolation. In Vangelisti, A. and Perlman, D. (eds) Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1506–53.Google Scholar
De Leeuw, E. D. and De Heer, W. 2002. Trends in household survey nonresponse: a longitudinal and international comparison. In Groves, R. M., Dillman, D. D., Eltinge, J. L. and Little, R. J. A. (eds) Survey Nonresponse. Wiley, New York, 4154.Google Scholar
Dykstra, P. A., Kalmijn, M., Knijn, T., Komter, A., Liefbroer, A. C. and Mulder, C. H. 2005. Codebook of The Netherlands Kinship Panel Study: A Multi-actor, Multi-method Panel Study on Solidarity in Family Relationships, Wave 1. NKPS Working Paper 4, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, The Hague, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
Dykstra, P. A. and Komter, A. E. 2006. Structural characteristics of Dutch kin networks. In Dykstra, P. A., Kalmijn, M., Komter, A. E., Knijn, T. C. M., Liefbroer, A. C. and Mulder, C. H. (eds) Family Solidarity in The Netherlands. Dutch University Press. Amsterdam, 2142.Google Scholar
Emerson, R. 1976. Social exchange theory. Annual Review of Sociology, 2, 335–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Felton, B. J. and Berry, C. A. 1992. Do the sources of the urban elderly's social support determine its consequences? Psychology and Aging, 7, 1, 8997.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
George, L. K. 1986. Caregiver burden: conflict between norms of reciprocity and solidarity. In Pillemer, K. A. and Wolf, R. S. (eds) Elder Abuse: Conflict in the Family. Auburn House, Dover, Massachusetts, 6792.Google Scholar
Gouldner, A. W. 1960. The norm of reciprocity: a preliminary statement. American Sociological Review, 25, 2, 161–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grundy, E. 2005. Reciprocity in relationships: socio-economic and health influences on intergenerational exchanges between Third Age parents and their adult children in Great Britain. British Journal of Sociology, 56, 2, 233–55.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Homans, G. 1961. Social Behavior. Harcourt, Brace and World, New York.Google Scholar
Kohli, M., Künemund, H., Motel, A. and Szydlik, M. 2000. Families apart? Intergenerational transfers in East and West Germany. In Arber, S. and Attias-Donfut, C. (eds) The Myth of Generational Conflict: The Family and State in Ageing Societies. Routledge, London, 8899.Google Scholar
Komter, A. and Vollebergh, W. 1997. Gift giving and emotional significance of family and friends. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 59, 3, 747–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Liang, J., Krause, N. M. and Bennett, J. M. 2001. Social exchange and well-being: is giving better than receiving? Psychology and Aging, 16, 3, 511–23.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Luoh, M. C. and Herzog, A. R. 2002. Individual consequences of volunteer and paid work in old age: health and mortality. Health and Social Behavior, 43, 4, 490509.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Marsden, P. V. 1990. Network data and measurement. Annual Review of Sociology, 16, 435–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Matthews, S. H. and Sun, R. 2006. Incidence of four-generation family linkages: is timing of fertility or mortality a better explanation? Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 61B, 2, S99106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miller, D. 1981. The ‘sandwich generation’: adult children of the aging. Social Work, 26, 5, 419–23.Google Scholar
Muscik, M. A. and Wilson, J. 2003. Volunteering and depression: the role of psychological and social resources in different age groups. Social Science and Medicine, 56, 2, 259–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Penning, M. J. 1998. In the middle: parental caregiving in the context of other roles. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 53B, 4, S188–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Perlman, D. and Peplau, L. A. 1981. Toward a social psychology of loneliness. In Duck, S. W. and Gilmour, R. (eds) Personal Relationships. 3: Personal Relationships in Disorder. Academic, London, 3156.Google Scholar
Pinquart, M. and Sörensen, S. 2001. Influences on loneliness in older adults: a meta-analysis. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 23, 4, 245–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rook, K. S. 1987. Reciprocity of social exchange and social satisfaction among older women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 1, 145–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rosenthal, C. J. 2000. Aging families: have current changes and challenges been ‘oversold’? In Gee, E. M. and Gutman, G. M. (eds) The Overselling of Population Aging: Apocalyptic Demography, Intergenerational Challenges, and Social Policy. Oxford University Press, Don Mills, Ontario, 4563.Google Scholar
Rossi, A. S. and Rossi, P. H. 1990. Of Human Bonding, Parent-Child Relations Across the Life Course. Aldine de Gruyter, New York.Google Scholar
Ryff, C. D., Schmutte, P. S. and Lee, Y. H. 1996. How children turn out: implications for parental self-evalutation. In Ryff, C. D. and Seltzer, M. M. (eds) The Parental Experience in Mid-life. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 383422.Google Scholar
Sahlins, M. D. 1972. Stone Age Economics. Tavistock, London.Google Scholar
Silverstein, M., Chen, X. and Heller, K. 1996. Too much of a good thing? Intergenerational social support and the psychological well-being of older parents. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 58, 4, 970–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Spitze, G., Logan, J. R., Joseph, G. and Lee, E. 1994. Middle generation roles and the well-being of men and women. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 49, 1, S107–16.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Thibault, J. W. and Kelley, H. H. 1959. The Social Psychology of Groups. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
Thomas, W. I. and Thomas, D. S. 1929. The Child in America. Second edition, Knopf, New York.Google Scholar
Uchino, B. N. 2004. Social Support and Physical Health: Understanding the Health Consequences of Relationships. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Umberson, D. 1992. Relationships between adult children and their parents: psychological consequences for both generations. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 54, 3, 664–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Tilburg, T., Van Sonderen, E. and Ormel, J. 1991. The measurement of reciprocity in ego-centered networks of personal relationships: a comparison of various indices. Social Psychology Quarterly, 54, 1, 5466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Willigen, M. 2000. Differential benefits of volunteering across the life course. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 55B, 5, S308–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Väänänen, A., Buunk, B., Kivimäki, M., Pentii, J. and Vahtera, J. 2005. When it is better to give than to receive: long-term health effects of perceived reciprocity in support exchange. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 2, 176–93.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Voorpostel, M. 2007. Sibling Support: The Exchange of Help Among Brothers and Sisters in The Netherlands. Dissertation, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
Walster, E. G., Walster, W. and Berscheid, E. 1978. Equity: Theory and Research. Allyn and Unwin, Boston, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
Wenger, G. C., Davies, R., Shahtahmasebi, S. and Scott, A. 1996. Social isolation and loneliness in old age: review and model refinement. Ageing & Society, 16, 3, 333–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar