The availability of family can be considered a protective factor for aging well. In this article, we examine to what extent the family situation of older people creates vulnerability with respect to their quality of life. Because not everyone is vulnerable to the same degree, we try to identify the conditions under which older people benefit more from having family resources. Based on the resources perspective, we argue that the impact of family resources on life satisfaction is stronger for older people with fewer resources at both the individual level (material, physical and non-familial social resources) and the country level (welfare state services targeted at older adults). To test our hypotheses we make use of the fourth wave of the European Values Study, and the MULTILINKS Social Policy Indicators database. In general our data offer support for the idea that the presence of intimate family ties (with partner and children) can be considered an important resource for achieving psychological well-being, whereas their absence or loss may act as a constraint. Our vulnerability argument is partly supported by the findings. Partner resources are more important for the life satisfaction of older people with a low education and health problems. Similarly, having children only improves the life-satisfaction of lower educated older adults. However, family resources are not more important for older people with fewer material resources or for older people living in countries with low services levels targeted at older adults.

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Journal of Aging Studies
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Moor, N, de Graaf, P.M, & Komter, A.E. (2013). Family, welfare state generosity and the vulnerability of older adults: A cross-national study. Journal of Aging Studies, 27(4), 347–357. doi:10.1016/j.jaging.2013.07.002