The family environment

The family environment

The decline in mortality has not only improved individual survival and extended years of life after the end of working life, it has also considerably changed the family environment. Far more often than in the past, elders live to see their children retire and their grandchildren become parents. It is no longer unusual for families to consist of four generations, two of which are retired. The postponement of widowhood, the increase in divorce and the decrease in multi-generational cohabitation are also prominent trends in recent decades. These phenomena are set to continue in the decades ahead, with the result that people of advanced age will usually grow old with a partner.

Sharp disparities nevertheless persist, especially between northern and southern Europe and between men and women. For example, women’s higher risk of widowhood and lower likelihood of remarrying destines them to residential isolation, whereas men generally remain living with a partner until they die.INED’s research is part of a comparative approach, which aims to reveal the diversity of elderly people’s marital and family pathways.

Marital isolation in France

S Pennec, J Gaymu

The marital structures of elderly people are now well known, but the lengths of time spent in each marital status are under-researched. While marital isolation (years spent single, widowed or divorced) does not necessarily mean social isolation, growing old without a partner does make individuals more vulnerable, especially when they are dependent. Moreover the duration of dependency has a major impact in terms of collective cost and family cost: family carers, mainly women, generally shoulder the burden of dependency, but at the expense of their own health and sometimes major career adjustments.

This study tracks the marital histories of men and women aged 60 and over who were born between 1900 and 1950, which differ in many respects. That fifty-year period encompasses the history of old age in France since the 1960s and sheds light on the expected developments in the decades ahead. A microsimulation model was used, a valuable tool in this area because it can be used to reconstruct individual life event histories on the basis of all the family events that can occur after age 60. The analysis of the variety of marital pathways received special attention. Some people will live continuously with a partner or without a partner until they die, whereas others will experience successive periods with a partner then alone after widowhood or divorce, and these ruptures can occur earlier or later in the life cycle. The amounts of time spent in different marital statuses have therefore been estimated according to the various marital pathways, with some gaining ground and others declining over the cohorts. This research will see several developments in the future. Other ages of old age will be studied and, jointly with researchers from the Australian National University working on the same issue, we will quantify the trend in the length of dependency in the various types of marital isolation, since widowed, single and divorced people do not have the same opportunities for family support.

Four-generation families: differential aspects

S Pennec, J Gaymu

Approaching retirement while being simultaneously a child, a parent and a grandparent has become common in many Western countries: with fertility hovering around two children per woman and life expectancy at birth of around 80, the number of four- and even five-generation families has increased. That trend is pushing the pivotal generation into a central position in the chain of family solidarity, as they support both their children and their elderly parents.

The microsimulation work done at INED by Sophie Pennec on families with four or five living generations will be extended with the addition of socio-occupational category and region. We will thus be able to propose estimates of the distribution of families by number of generations and of the people in them, for a département or by social group. These analyses will shed light on the geographical or social dispersion of potential needs (stemming from the existence of ascendant and descendant generations) that these generations must provide for.

Multi-generational cohabitation in Europe: CENSUS

P Festy

The Integrated European Census Microdata database is designed to enable any researcher to access individual records and to provide detailed information in the form of metadata, facilitating comparisons in time and space. The CENSUS project is an evaluation of the coverage and quality of the database through demographic measurements. The prevalence of and factors in inter-generational co-residence of adults in recent decades will be studied to test the operational quality of the database. With respect to multi-generational cohabitation, a clear north/south gradient emerges in Europe, but that remains a broad observation. There are few comparative studies on this issue that use a wide range of indicators (number of people in the household, their socio-demographic characteristics, their family relationship, etc.). This type of analysis will shed new light on this form of family solidarity and will make it possible, in particular, to distinguish between cases where different generations have cohabited for a long time and those where adult children are caring for their ageing parents or, on the contrary, where adult children have returned to live with their parents, for example after a divorce.

Some references

Gaymu J., Festy P., Poulain M. and Beets G. (eds), 2008, Future elderly living conditions in Europe, cahiers de l'INED, n°162, 315 p

Gaymu J., Delbès C., Springer S., Binet A., Desesquelles A., Kalogirou S., Ziegler U., 2006, « Determinants of the living arrangements of older people in Europe », European Journal of population, vol 22, n°3, 241-262

Murphy M., Martikainen P., Pennec S., 2006, « Demographic change and the supply of potential family supporters in Britain, Finland and France in the period 1911-2050 », European Journal of Demography, 22 (3), p. 219-240

Delbès C., Gaymu J., Springer S., 2006, « Les femmes vieillissent seules, les hommes à deux. Un bilan européen », Population et Sociétés, n°419, janvier 2006

Delbès C., Gaymu J., 2004, « L'histoire conjugale des 50 ans et plus ». In: Lefèvre C., Filhon A. (dir.), Histoires de familles, histoires familiales. Paris, Ined, Les cahiers de l'Ined, 156, p.339-356

Pennec S., 1996, « La place des familles à quatre générations en France ». Population. 51 (1), 31-60

Bonnet C., Cambois E., Cases C., Gaymu J., 2011, "La dépendance : aujourd'hui l'affaire des femmes, demain davantage celle des hommes", population et Société, n°483

Bonvalet C., Clément, C. and Ogg, J., 2013, Baby-boomers and their entourage, International Review of Sociology: Revue Internationale de Sociologie, DOI:10.1080/03906701.2013.771054