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Care-giving to grandchildren and elderly parents: role conflict or family solidarity?


Intergenerational help and care among members of the family belong to the most important dimensions of contemporary welfare regimes. Recent research has indicated that a major part of caring responsibilities is placed on the middle-aged generation. The ‘pivot generation’ is expected to provide help to their adult children and grandchildren as well as to their ageing parents. It has been hypothesised that people helping their parents are discouraged from looking after their grandchildren because they experience lack of energy and time. Using data from the four waves of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), this paper analyses the effect of providing help to ageing parents on the likelihood and intensity of looking after grandchildren. It takes a four-generation perspective: grandchildren, children, parents and grandparents. The results show that the support of parents is not associated with less-frequent and less-intense care of grandchildren. On the contrary, a positive association between caring responsibilities has been observed. The highest tendency to care for grandchildren has been found for people regularly helping their parents. This effect holds after controlling for grandparents’ characteristics and country effects. It is suggested that caring responsibilities tend to accumulate rather than compete with one another and therefore could represent a potential risk of overburden for those who have a general tendency to care.

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Address for correspondence: Lada Železná, Masaryk University, Joštova 218/10, 602 00 Brno, Czech Republic E-mail:
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Ageing & Society
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