North, South and West: differentials in parent-child contacts among the older populations of Finland, France and Italy

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In this paperwe examine differences between and within three European countries in the proportion of elderly parents who have at least weekly face-face contact with a child. We use nationally representative survey data from Finland, France and Italy which includes information on availability of childrenand extent of contact, as well as on relevant parental characteristics. Results confirm the higher level of parent adult-child contact in Italy than in the more northern European countries, but the proportion of parents seeing a child at least weekly was high in all the countries we considered. Multivariate analysis showed that paternal divorce was associated with a reduced probability of frequent contact between fathers and children in all countries and in Finland maternal divorce had a similar effect on probability of frequent contact between mothers and adult children. Number of childrenand levels of education were also associated with variations in proportions with at least weekly contact. We also present for France possible future scenarios of contact with children that combine the observed effects of the explanatory variables with hypothetical changes in population distribution. Our results are consistent with other studies which have pointed to differences between
Northern and SouthernEurope in extent of family affiliation, although reasons for these differences are still poorly understood. However, our results also suggest that concerns about declining family networks among older people in Northern Europe may be overstated, given the observed high level of frequent contact between parents and adult children.

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