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Older adults’ networks and public care receipt: do partners and adult children substitute for unskilled public care?


This study investigates how (a) the reliance on public care and (b) the type of public care received by older people in the Netherlands depends on the availability of partners and adult children. Older people aged 65 years and older were surveyed in the Netherlands Kinship Panel Study at two time-points. Survey results were linked to registry data on public care receipt at the two time-points. Multilevel models revealed that receiving frequent help in the household from children was not associated with public care receipt. Only men having a partner were less likely to receive public care. Further analyses comparing the receipt of skilled and unskilled forms of public care revealed that female partners are especially important in rendering unskilled care unnecessary compared to skilled care. Two arguments may explain our findings. One is that a gender-bias exists in processing public care requests – men are perceived as less able to provide care to their female partners. Another is that men lack the skills, or perceive themselves as lacking the care skills that female partners have. Caution is advised against introducing policy measures that increase pressure on female partners.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Niels Schenk, Department of Sociology, Erasmus University, P.O. Box 1738, Rotterdam 3000 DR, The Netherlands. E-mail:
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Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
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