Persistence of the norm of filial obligation among Chilean adults

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  • 1 Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, , Chile
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Norms of filial obligation can predict how and whether children provide support to their ageing parents. Using a nationally representative sample, this study describes the degree to which Chilean adults adhere to these norms, and analyses which variables are associated with their degree of adherence to these norms. It found that adults are more likely to adhere to these norms when their parents require special care. Using linear regression models, this study also found that younger adults and those with fewer family responsibilities are more likely to adhere to these norms, as do people who are more educated and those who identify with a religious belief. Reciprocity in parent–child relationships also predict greater adherence.

Abstract

Norms of filial obligation can predict how and whether children provide support to their ageing parents. Using a nationally representative sample, this study describes the degree to which Chilean adults adhere to these norms, and analyses which variables are associated with their degree of adherence to these norms. It found that adults are more likely to adhere to these norms when their parents require special care. Using linear regression models, this study also found that younger adults and those with fewer family responsibilities are more likely to adhere to these norms, as do people who are more educated and those who identify with a religious belief. Reciprocity in parent–child relationships also predict greater adherence.

Introduction

As people’s longevity has improved, thanks to advances in medical science and technology, the global population as a whole has aged considerably. As a result, scholars have become increasingly interested in studying relationships between older parents and their adult children, who provide their parents with important support and care as they age (OECD, 2012). In this context, studying the validity of family obligations – and filial obligations in particular – is very important, because these obligations may predict whether and how adult children provide real support to their ageing parents (Daatland and Herlofson, 2003; Silverstein et al, 2006; Mureşan and Hărăguş, 2015; Fernández and Herrera, 2016).

Chile’s population is ageing at an accelerated rate: 16.2 per cent of the country’s population is 60 years old or older (Chile Population and Housing Census 2017).1 This makes Chile’s population the second-oldest among Latin American countries, after Uruguay (CEPAL, 2018). Although the average Chilean’s life expectancy is around 80 years old (CEPAL, 2019), this does not imply that Chileans live until the end of their lives in perfect health. In fact, 24 per cent of Chilean older adults are dependent – which is equivalent to 405,539 individuals – and includes more than 50 per cent of Chileans over 80 years old and more than 60 per cent of those aged 85 and over (SENAMA, 2010). Therefore, a significant number of Chilean older adults are dependent on others, especially on their adult children, for their care, day-to-day activities and wellbeing (Fernández and Herrera, 2020). In addition, these problems have arisen in a social context wherein the Chilean state has not financed policies and programmes to maintain the wellbeing of its older population; thus, families continue to be the main agents for the wellbeing of older adults (Sunkel, 2006). The issue of family obligations is therefore a crucial one for the health and wellbeing of Chilean older adults. However, studies on family obligations in the Chilean context are scarce, as they are in the entire Latin American region. This article seeks to fill this gap in the literature and the local evidence.

Background

Filial obligations

Filial obligations are a norm of family relationships that require adults to care for their parents in times of need, irrespective of what they might hope to receive or have received in return from that relationship (Kalmijn, 2005). The norms of filial obligation thus define the social roles of adult children towards their parents (Gans and Silverstein, 2006) and provide patterns of socially expected behaviour (Finch and Maison, 1990).

At this point, it is pertinent to distinguish between normative filial obligations and how they unfold in practice (Aboderin, 2005). In general, it would seem that most people have a normative sense of filial obligation, especially as their parents age and require care. However, in practice, adherence to and recognition of filial norms vary according to circumstances, which affect the provision of support. For this reason, Finch and Maison (1991) mentioned that filial norms should not be considered as a firm social rule but rather as a commonly recognised normative guide, which helps children develop a sense of responsibility and commitment towards their ageing parents. Ultimately, however, support depends on the children’s willingness, resources and various other conditions for practical application.

Explicative factors of filial obligation

Several authors have sought to determine the factors that are associated with adult children’s higher or lower levels of adherence to norms of filial obligation. Dykstra and Fokkema (2012) argue that these factors can be classified into four groups: (1) the value patterns of the groups that people belong to, (2) family constellation, (3) practical possibilities for providing care and assistance, and (4) actual experiences of support.

The first group includes variables such as gender, age, educational level and religious affiliation. Regarding gender, it seems that women are socialised from an early age to develop specific skills and sensitivities that compel and help them to take care of others, and that men are socialised to prioritise and value independence and autonomy (Funk, 2008). Women, therefore, end up expressing higher levels of commitment to norms of filial obligation and are more likely to provide support to their ageing parents (Fernández and Herrera, 2015).

Regarding age, some studies have indicated that middle-aged adults (36–55 years old) largely accept the norms of filial obligation, and that as adult children age their acceptance of these norms diminishes (Peek et al, 1998; Stein et al, 1998). Some studies have suggested that younger adults’ (18–35 years old) acceptance of these norms can be explained by the fact that they are many years from actually having to take care of their parents and thus tend to idealise this responsibility without considering or experiencing its practical implications (Guberman, 2003; Dykstra and Fokkema, 2012).

The evidence regarding education and acceptance of these norms is contradictory. Some studies have argued that more highly educated children feel less obligated to look after their ageing parents because they are better equipped to seek and afford private care (Gans and Silverstein, 2006; de Valk and Schans, 2008). Other studies have indicated that more highly educated people tend to be more individualistic than less-educated people, and that there is an inverse relationship between education and acceptance of filial norms (Dykstra and Fokkema, 2012). However, some authors have countered that higher levels of education are associated with a greater sense of obligation, since highly educated children feel the need to repay their parents for their investment in their future (Rossi and Rossi, 1990).

Religiosity can often drive the value systems believed in and adhered to by people (Liefbroer and Mulder, 2006). For instance, some studies have shown that religious people exhibit stronger feelings of obligation than non-religious people (Killian and Ganong, 2002; Daatland and Herlofson, 2003). Because most religious beliefs emphasise believers’ duty to love and respect their parents, people who belong to a particular religion, church or creed are more likely to adhere to norms of filial obligation than non-religious people (Dykstra and Fokkema, 2012). In addition, some studies have found that most actively religious people provide more support to their parents than their non-religious counterparts (Tosi and Oncini, 2020).

There are several factors to consider in relation to the effects of family constellation on children’s adherence to the norms of filial obligation. For instance, several studies in the literature have analysed the impact of divorces on both parents and children (Ganong et al, 2009), and some have found that children of divorced parents exhibit weaker levels of filial obligation – especially towards the parent whom they stopped living with – than children whose parents were still together (Cicirelli, 1983; Mureşan, 2016). Some studies have argued that adults who are divorced have less time and money to help their relatives, and because of their situations they may be less sensitive to their parents’ needs (Gans and Silverstein, 2006). However, other authors have asserted that divorce has a selective and small impact on children’s relationships with their parents (Spitze et al, 1994; Glaser et al, 2008), or that children of divorced parents exhibit high levels of filial obligation (Wijckmans and Van Bavel, 2010). These findings are consistent with other studies showing that single people adhere more to family support norms in general because, lacking a partner, they need additional support themselves (Lee et al, 1994).

Feelings of filial obligation may also be associated with whether the adult children are themselves parents. Satir (1980) indicates that there is a hierarchy or order of priority to provide help within the family. Within this, adult children who are already parents will prioritise support for their own children over that of their own parents (Barros et al, 2014). In addition, some studies have indicated that having fewer siblings is associated with more contact with and support of older parents due to the tight bond between parents and the only child (Wolf et al, 1997; Silverstein et al, 2007), and that in larger families, less frequent contact between children and their parents (Van Gaalen and Dykstra, 2006) can generate weaker relationships and consequently a weaker sense of filial obligation.

Rossi and Rossi (1990) argued that adult children demonstrate less adherence to filial norms after their parents have died. Gans and Silverstein (2006) explained this finding by asserting that the death of a parent causes their adult children to become the ‘new older generation’ within their family and that this change leads to the assumption of additional roles and responsibilities that affect their identification with and acceptance of filial norms.

With reference to practical possibilities, adult children’s health has been shown to play an essential role in their willingness to provide support for their ageing parents (Laditka and Laditka, 2001; Igel et al, 2009). When adult children have their own health problems, they do not feel as compelled to honour filial obligations because they have their own pressing health needs (Keene and Batson, 2010). Other practical concerns covered in the literature include adult children’s employment situations and income levels. Studies have shown that working people have less time to devote to caring for their parents than those who do not work and are thus less likely to provide support for their ageing parents (Haberkern and Szydlik, 2008). As implied earlier, higher-earning individuals can choose to enrol their parents in private care, thereby reducing their feelings of obligation (Liefbroer and Mulder, 2006). Reciprocity has also been found to be very important in the literature; studies have indicated that adult children feel higher levels of filial obligation if they have received substantial support from their parents over their lifetimes (Dykstra and Fokkema, 2012).

Given the above review of the literature, this article aims to describe the degree of adherence of Chileans over 18 years of age to filial obligation norms, on the one hand, and to analyse the variables associated with adherence to these norms, on the other.

Methods

Sample

The 5th Bicentennial Survey conducted by the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile-Encuesta Bicentenario UC-GfK Adimark in 2010 was used for this study.2 The aim of this survey is to obtain information over time about Chilean society on relevant topics, such as family, health, religion, wellbeing, social mobility and so on. The survey is conducted through face-to-face interviews with Chileans aged 18 years and older. The interview period of the 5th Bicentennial Survey was between June and July 2010.

The population under study corresponds to Chilean adults who live in all areas (municipalities) of the country. Only some hard-to-access areas were omitted, which represents less than 1 per cent of the total population. The case selection was multistage, probabilistic, stratified, with a total margin of error of +/– 2.2%.

The final sample of the 5th Bicentennial Survey was of 2,012 people: 53 per cent were women and 47 per cent were men. Their mean age was 42 years, with a standard deviation of 16 years; 23 per cent had only primary education or less, 39 per cent had secondary education, and 38 per cent attained some form of higher education degree. In addition, 54 per cent were married or cohabiting, 29 per cent were single, and 40 per cent lived within the metropolitan region of Chile. Respondents’ participation was voluntary and each participant signed an informed consent form.

Measurement

Dependent variable

In this study, the filial obligation variable was created using the following questions: What are the duties of adult children towards their older parents? with response Only if adult children want to/Always the duty of adult children: (1) To provide financial support to their parents if they need it. (2) To accompany and spend time with their parents. (3) To help with domestic chores in their parents’ home if needed. (4) To care for their parents when they can no longer care for themselves. (5) To take their parents into their own home when their parents are no longer able to live alone. These five questions were combined by summation, resulting in a unidimensional index that explains 58 per cent of the variance. Table 1 shows the component matrix, using principal component analysis as the extraction method. The index had a high level of internal consistency, with a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.82.

Table 1:

Matrix components of filial obligation index

ItemsComponents
Provide financial support to their parents if they need it0.774
Accompany and spend time with their parents0.729
Help with the domestic chores in their parents’ home if needed0.793
Care for their parents when they can no longer care for themselves0.718
Take their parents into their own home when their parents are no longer able to live alone0.788

Independent variables

Independent variables employed in this study included the following:

  • Gender (where 0=male and 1=female)

  • Age (1=18 to 29 years old, 2= 30 to 44 years old, 3=45 to 59 years old, and 4=60 years old and older)

  • Education level3 (1=primary school education or less, as a reference category; 2=secondary school education; 3=higher education)

  • Religious identification (1=Catholic, 2=Evangelical, 3=Other, 4=None)

  • Marital status (1=single, 2=married/cohabiting, 3=widow/widower, 4=divorced/separated)

  • Whether or not respondents have children (0=no, 1=yes)

  • Self-perception of health (‘From a scale of 1 (minor) to 7 (major), how satisfied are you with your health status?’)

  • Whether or not respondents are employed (0=no, 1=yes)

  • Economic reciprocity: this indicator combines two questions. The first question asks whether the parents of the respondents are alive; since there is no direct question on this issue, the following questions were used as proxy questions: ‘How often do you maintain contact with your mother/father?’ If, in both cases, the respondent gave no answer or answered that their parents were no longer alive, their responses were labelled as ‘Does not have living parents’. On the other hand, if respondents mentioned that they contacted their parents, their responses were labelled as ‘At least one parent is alive’. The second question asks how often adult children gave and/or received financial support to/from their parents. Response categories for this question included: (1) Always or almost always. (2) Sometimes. (3) Never or hardly ever. Finally, if a respondent indicated having at least one living parent and giving and receiving financial support ‘always or almost always’ they were considered to have a reciprocal relationship with their parents; if they indicated that at least one parent was alive but they never or hardly ever gave or received financial support, they were considered to have a non-reciprocal relationship with their parents. Not having living parents was considered a reference category.

Statistical analyses

The statistical programme STATA (version 14) was used to carry out analyses in this study. First, the authors performed a descriptive bivariate analysis (of percentages, means and standard deviations). Then, different models of linear regression were calculated to explain variations in the filial obligation data among Chileans aged 18 years and older. The first model included as predictors the variables associated with the membership group (gender, age, education level and religious identification). The second model included marital status, having children, and having living parents as variables associated with the family structure. Then, the predictors related to practical possibilities for providing care – including self-perceptions of health and work-related variables – were included. Economic reciprocity was added in the last model. Finally, to evaluate the goodness of fit of the models, the authors used a variance analysis (ANOVA) in addition to the adjusted R2, which considered the number of independent variables in each model.

Results

Descriptive analysis

First, with regard to the responses to the five questions used to create the filial obligation index (Table 2), it is observed that respondents perceived that they felt a greater obligation to care for their parents when they could no longer care for themselves (67 per cent) and to take their parents into their own home when their parents were no longer able to live alone (61 per cent). In addition, respondents perceived a lower obligation to provide financial aid to their parents.

Table 2:

Degree of agreement with the filial obligations

Always the duty of adult childrenOnly if adult children want to
What are the duties of adult children towards their elderly parents?Care for their parents when they can no longer care for themselves67.1%32.9%
Take their parents into their own home when their parents are no longer able to live alone60.6%39.4%
Accompany and spend time with their parents42.3%57.7%
Help with the domestic chores in their parents’ home if needed37.8%62.1%
Provide financial support to their parents if needed33.9%66.1%

Source: 5th Bicentennial Survey 2010 (N=2012)

The filial obligation index has a median value of 2.38 (SD=1.828), with a range of 0 (low) to 5 points (higher levels of acceptance of filial obligation). The distribution tends to be normal, with an asymmetry of 0.049 and a kurtosis of –1.36.

Table 3 describes the variables included in the models and the associations at the bivariate level between the filial obligation index and the respective predictors. Here, we can observe that younger, more educated respondents who identify with some religion exhibit higher levels of acceptance of filial norms, as do single people, those without children, and those who have at least one living parent and maintain a reciprocal relationship with that parent.

Table 3:

Descriptive analysis

TOTALFilial Obligation Index (0–5)Always the duty of the adult children to …
Care for their parents when they can no longer care for themselvesTake their parents into their own home when their parents are no longer able to live alone..Accompany and spend time with their parentsHelp with domestic chores in their parents’ home if neededProvide financial support to their parents if needed
GenderMale46.7%2.30a66.1%a59.3%a38.9%a34.2%a33.7%a
Female53.3%2.45a68.0%a61.7%a43.3%b41.0%b32.7%a
Age18 to 2922.6%2.69a75.5%a66.9%a47.5%a45.0%a35.3%a
30 to 4430.6%2.61a70.8%a.b65.4%a45.4%a.b41.5%a38.3%a
45 to 5925.0%2.31b65.1%b59.6%a38.6%b.c37.2%a31.9%a.b
60 and over21.8%1.84c55.4%c48.3%b31.8%c25.7%b25.0%b
EducationPrimary or less23.1%2.05a58.8%a51.9%a35.1%a31.4%a28.8%a
Secondary38.6%2.44b68.6%b62.3%b43.3%b39.4%b31.5%a
Higher38.3%2.54b70.8%b64.3%b43.0%b40.2%b37.6%b
Religious identificationCatholic65.0%2.41a.b67.6%a61.2%a43.1%a37.8%a32.7%a
Evangelical15.7%2.40a.b66.8%a61.5%a39.4%a.b39.2%a34.2%a
Other3.4%2.86a72.5%a72.1%a46.4%a.b45.6%a51.5%b
None16.0%2.20b64.3%a55.3%a34.9%b35.8%a30.5%a
Marital StatusSingle28.7%2.70a73.2%a64.9%a46.9%a44.7%a41.5%a
Married/cohabitant54.2%2.32b66.9%a.c61.0%a39.8%b35.6%b30.0%b
Widow/widowed7.5%2.05b59.6%b.c53.7%a.b35.1%a.b28.2%b29.3%b
Divorced/separated9.6%2.09b56.0%b50.8%b37.5%a.b37.6%a.b28.9%b
Having childrenNo53.8%2.71a73.7%a66.4%a47.7%a45.4%a38.7%a
Yes46.2%2.00b59.4%b53.8%b33.7%b28.9%b26.7%b
Self-perception of healthMean5.50.01215.5025.5125.5125.5225.512
EmployedNo47.6%2.38a67.0%a60.4%a41.4%a38.6%a32.6%a
Yes52.4%2.39a67.3%a60.9%a41.0%a36.8%a33.9%a
Economic reciprocityNot having living parents31.0%1.94a57.0%a50.9%a32.1%a29.7%a26.7%a
Non-reciprocal relationship46.1%2.48b70.0%b64.0%b43.3%b39.3%b33.2%b
Reciprocal relationship22.9%2.79c75.0%b66.7%b50.4%c45.8%b41.7%c

Note: Values of the same column and sub-table that do not share the same subscript are significantly different at p <0.05 (two-sided equality test for column proportions). Tests assume equal variances.

1R-Pearson correlation non significant.

2T-test non-significant.

Source: 5th Bicentennial Survey 2010 (N=2012)

Table 4 displays associations between the predictor variables. The following associations are noteworthy: younger people tend to be more educated and are more likely to be single and childless. Likewise, younger, more highly educated people are positively associated with a lack of religious identification and better self-perceptions of their own health, and are more likely to be employed – this is especially the case for male respondents. Also, younger and more educated people are positively related to the possibility of having at least one parent alive, but negatively related to having a reciprocal relationship with their parents. This is possibly attributable to a lower level of economic need on the part of this group.

Table 4:

Statistical significance of bivariate associations between predictors

12345678910
1. Female1
2. Age 60 and over2ns
3. Higher education2----
4. Religious identification: none1----++
5. Marital status: widow/widowed1++++----
6. Having children1ns++----++
7. Self-perception of health 3----++ns----
8. Employed1----++++----++
9. Not having living parents1ns++----++++++--
10. Economic reciprocity1ns----nsns----ns

Notes: 1 Nominal variable; 2 Ordinal Variable; 3 Scalar variable

++ Positive association with statistical significance at p< 0.05

-- Negative association with statistical significance at p< 0.05

The association between nominal variables is calculated through chi-square; the association between nominal and scalar variable is calculated with t-test for independent samples.

Linear regression analysis

Table 5 shows the results of linear regression models, which were estimated to explain variations in the filial obligation index. These results are significant considering the ANOVA analysis of variance. The contribution of the different groups of variables slightly increases the variance explained, reaching an adjusted R2 of 0.07 in model 4.

Table 5:

Linear regression models for filial obligation index (B coefficients)

PredictorsModel 1Model 2Model 3Model 4
B (SE)tB (SE)tB (SE)tB (SE)t
Female0.146 (0.081)1.800.129 (0.082)1.580.101 (0.085)1.190.103 (0.085)1.22
30 to 44 years1–0.075 (0.111)–0.680.119 (0.123)0.970.126 (0.126)0.990.141 (0.126)1.12
45 to 59 years1–0.383 (0.119)–3.21–0.006 (0.140)0.05–0.017 (0.143)–0.130.100 (0.147)0.68
60 and over1–0.807 (0.130)–6.19–0.364 (0.158)–2.30–0.407 (0.160)–2.55–0.172 (0.181)–0.95
Secondary education20.187 (0.110)1.690.166 (0.110)1.510.191 (0.111)1.72.179 (0.111)1.61
Higher education20.262 (0.115)2.260.212 (0.115)1.960.262 (0.118)2.20.264 (0.119)2.21
Catholic30.371 (0.114)3.250.361 (0.113)3.180.371 (0.113)3.270.367 (0.113)3.24
Evangelical30.348 (0.146)2.370.343 (0.145)2.360.351 (0.145)2.410.336 (0.145)2.31
Other religious30.761 (0.239)3.180.743 (0.238)3.120.742 (0.238)3.120.765 (0.237)3.23
Single40.212 (0.105)2.010.210 (0.105)1.980.203 (0.105)1.96
Divorced/separated4–0.094 (0.142)–0.66–0.096 (0.142)–0.68–0.116 (0.142)–0.82
Widow/widowed40.122 (0.166)0.740.125 (0.166)0.750.119 (0.166)0.72
Having children–0.461 (0.100)–4.59–0.468 (0.100)–4.66–0.442 (0.100)–4.41
Self-perception of health–0.050 (0.028)–1.75–0.053 (0.028)–1.87
Employed–0.068 (0.092)–0.75–0.070 (0.091)–0.77
Non-reciprocal relationship50.217 (0.118)1.83
Reciprocal relationship50.518 (0.134)3.85
Constant2.102.052.362.07
R2 adjusted0.040.050.060.07
Observations2002200220022002

Notes 1 Reference category = 18 to 24 years; 2 reference category = primary education or less; 3 reference category = none; 4 reference category = married or cohabitant; 5 reference category = not having living parents

Regarding the estimated beta coefficients, in model 1, people aged 45–59 and those aged 60 and older showed lower levels of filial obligation than their 18- to 24-year-old counterparts (45–59 with β=–0.383, p<0.001, 95% CI [–0.618, –0.149]; 60 and older with β=–0.807, p<0.01, 95% CI [–1.06, –0.551]). In the other models, the significance of this relationship is weaker, possibly due to the association between age and family structure.

As for the rest of the variables associated with the membership group, model 1 indicates that people with a higher level of education display higher levels of obligation (β=0.262. p<0.05, 95% CI [0.034, 0.489]), as do people who identify with a particular religion (Catholic with β=0.371, p<0.01, 95% CI [0.147, 0.595]; Evangelical with β=0.348, p<0.05, 95% CI [0.060, 0.635]; and ‘Other’ with β=0.761, p<0.01, 95% CI [0.291, 1.231] compared to non-religious people. Similar results were replicated in the other estimated models.

Regarding the variables associated with family structure, model 2 indicates that single people are more likely to accept filial norms (β=0.212, p<0.05, 95% CI [0.004, 0.420]) compared to their married and cohabiting counterparts, and that having children reduces one’s acceptance of these norms (β=–0.461, p<0.01, 95% CI [–0.658, –0.264]). These results are also significant in the other models.

Finally, the existence of a reciprocal relationship predicts deeper acceptance of filial obligations. The filial obligation index of individuals reporting such relationship with one of their parents increases (β=0.518, p<0.01, 95% CI [0.254, 0.781]).

Discussion and conclusion

This study measured Chileans’ sense of filial obligation towards their ageing parents and the factors which affect their sense of obligation. It found that Chileans perceive their filial obligations most intensely when their parents can no longer care for themselves. In other situations, their sense of filial obligation is rather weak; even in these cases, however, it does not reach the low perceptions of filial obligation found in other developed countries (Daatland and Lowenstein, 2005; Funk, 2008; Stuifbergen, 2011), where most people reject filial norms as a general precept. This may be explained by the fact that Chile lacks the prosperity of these other countries, and this forces families to rely more on one another than on public healthcare systems when seeking end-of-life care.

This study also found that age is associated with different predispositions towards norms of filial obligation. In particular, it was found that Chileans aged 45–59 and those over 60 were less likely to accept these norms, and that Chileans aged 18–24 exhibited greater acceptance of these norms. These results are partly consistent with research from other countries (Daatland, 1990; Dykstra and Fokkema, 2012), which have shown that middle-aged adults are less accepting of these norms and that acceptance weakens around the age of 45. These phenomena have been explained by asserting that middle-aged adult children are less accepting of these norms the closer they get to having to provide assistance to their older parents (Guberman, 2003; Dykstra and Fokkema; 2012). The results of the present study suggest that the greater acceptance of these norms by younger Chileans might be explained by their relative lack of family responsibilities as they are in a greater proportion single or childless.

This study also found that more highly educated people display higher acceptance of these norms. This finding provides evidence in support of the hypothesis that reciprocal relationships engender greater feelings of obligation – that is, the authors suspect that children in these relationships, especially highly educated children, have received more support from their parents over their lifetimes and therefore feel obligated to return the favour.

This study also found that value orientation had a significant effect on Chileans’ acceptance of filial norms, insofar as religious people exhibited a greater sense of filial duty than non-religious people. As Gans et al (2009) argue, this might be explicable in terms of (1) religious doctrines, which prescribe appropriate behaviour towards older parents; (2) religious values, which emphasise compassion and reinforce collaborative behaviour; and (3) institutional and ritual structures that reinforce intergenerational ties. Although Chile is still a relatively religious country – according to the 5th Bicentennial Survey 2010, 78 per cent of Chileans identify as religious – a sustained decline in religiosity could reduce Chileans’ acceptance of and adherence to traditional norms, including norms of filial obligation.

Finally, this study found that having at least one living parent is associated at a bivariate level with a greater acceptance of filial norms. This finding is partly explained by the fact that if someone has no living parents, other family obligations take the place of filial obligations (Dykstra and Fokkema, 2012). However, given the finding that reciprocal relationships between parents and children can predict adherence to filial norms, we should not forget that intergenerational ties operate in two directions (in other words, parents support their young children and expect to be supported in turn once they are much older), and that there are many forms of reciprocity, not all of which are tied to age and health. For instance, older parents can still provide financial, emotional or other kinds of aid to their dependents, and this might increase the likelihood that their children will provide or invest in the care of their parents.

This study also revealed some statistically insignificant associations. First, and contrary to expectations, Chilean women did not display higher levels of acceptance of filial norms than men. This is consistent with studies which have not found associations by gender (Killian and Ganong, 2002; Dykstra and Fokkema, 2012; Dykstra et al, 2014), and others which have found weak (Daatland and Herlofson, 2003) and even contradictory associations (Yoon and Kropf, 2018) depending on the sample. However, if we focus on filial obligation in practice, we observe that women are more likely to provide support and care for the older adults (Ingersoll-Dayton et al, 1996; Stuifbergen et al, 2008; Fernández and Herrera, 2015), which has consequences on their wellbeing and quality of life (Fernández and Lan Lay, 2020). Although in modern societies women have managed to diversify their social roles, this does not imply a disengagement from their traditional responsibilities. Tradition, socialisation and economic relations continue to place women at the centre of the tasks of caring for the older adults and other social groups (Huenchuán, 2009). Therefore, the changes and new demands of ageing will have different consequences according to gender, with women being the most affected by the consequences of this demographic change (Sharma et al, 2016).

In addition, employment and self-perceptions of health were not found to be significantly associated with the acceptance of filial obligations in this study. This is consistent with some studies that have shown that employment status does not prevent a person from providing support to an older parent at the expense of available free time (Dykstra and Fokkema, 2012); by contrast, there is no consistent evidence that self-perceptions of health make a difference in one’s acceptance of these norms (Keene and Batson, 2010; Yoon and Kropf, 2018).

This study has its strengths and limitations. The main strengths of this study are its character as a novel, quantitative expression of people’s acceptance of filial obligations in the Latin American context, and the fact that it has employed nationally representative survey data. This is especially novel and important in the Chilean context, given the geographical and sociodemographic heterogeneity of Chile’s population. As for limitations, this study does not include variables that can measure the specific needs of ageing parents, which may affect children’s sense of obligation and their capacity to fulfil those obligations (Silverstein et al, 2006; Dykstra et al, 2014). Therefore, future studies should strive to include variables such as the ageing parents’ health status and income. Likewise, this study did not engage the potential effects of family size on filial obligations. Therefore, future studies should consider using longitudinal data to measure how changes in life circumstances might affect acceptance of norms of filial obligation, and whether and how these obligations are fulfilled in practice. For example, previous studies have found that feelings of filial obligation are associated with intergenerational co-residence (Thomson, 2015), and that individuals who lived with their grandparents were more likely to adhere to intergenerational norms (Keene and Batson, 2010). Notwithstanding these limitations, advances in the study of the factors that affect the exchange of support between adult children and older parents provides evidence for the development and implementation of policies, which should contribute to improving not only the quality of life of older people, but also of all those who support them.

Notes

1

In 2002 the National Service for Older Adults (SENAMA) was created by decree law No. 19,828, which also defines as an older adult any Chilean person who has reached the age of 60, without difference between men and women.

2

The data that support the findings of this study are openly available in https://encuestabicentenario.uc.cl/

3

Due to the high correlation between educational level and income, it was decided to include only one of these variables in the models.

Funding

This work was supported by the by ANID (National Agency for Research and Development) under grant number 11180287 and the Millennium Science Initiative Program ICS2019_024.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest

References

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    • Export Citation
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    • Export Citation
  • Daatland, S. and Herlofson, K. (2003) Lost solidarity or changed solidarity: a comparative European view of normative family social, Ageing & Society, 23(5): 53760. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X03001272

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dykstra, P. and Fokkema, T. (2012) Norms of filial obligation in the Netherlands, Population, 67(1): 97122. doi: 10.3917/pope.1201.0097

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dykstra, P., van den Broek, T., Muresan, C., Haragus, M., Haragus, P.T., Abramowska-Kmon, A. and Kotowska, I. (2014) State-of-the-art report: intergenerational linkages in families, Families and Societies Working Paper Series.

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    • Export Citation
  • Fernández, M.B. and Herrera, M.S. (2015) Normative, structural, and individual factors that predispose adult children to provide social support to their elderly parents, Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 46(4): 51740.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fernández, M.B. and Lan Lay, S. (2020) Multiple roles and subjective well-being of middle aged women who are caregivers of elderly people in Chile, Journal of Women & Aging, 32(2): 14967. doi: 10.1080/08952841.2018.1537690.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Finch, J. and Maison, J. (1990) Filial obligations and kin support for elderly people, Ageing & Society, 10(2): 15175. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X00008059

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Finch, J. and Maison, J. (1991) Obligations of kinship in contemporary Britain: is there normative agreement?, The British Journal of Sociology, 42(3): 60125. doi: 10.2307/591185

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Funk, L. (2008) Responsibility for aging parents: independence and obligation within filial relationships [PhD Thesis], University of Victoria.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ganong, L.H., Coleman, M. and Rothrauff, T. (2009) Patterns of assistance between adult children and their older parents: resources, responsibilities, and remarriage, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 26(2–3): 16178. doi: 10.1177/0265407509106706

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gans, D. and Silverstein, M. (2006) Norms of filial responsibility of aging parents across time and generations, Journal of Marriage and the Familiy, 68(4): 96176. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2006.00307.x

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gans, D., Silverstein, M. and Lowenstein, A. (2009) Do religious children care more and provide more care for older parents? A study of filial norms and behavior across five nations, Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 40(2): 187201. doi: 10.3138/jcfs.40.2.187

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Glaser, K., Tomassini, C. and Stuchbury, R. (2008) Differences over time in the relationship between partnership disruptions and support in early old age in Britain, Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 63B(6): 35968.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Guberman, N. (2003) Beyond demography: the norms and values of family solidarity in theory and in practice. Paper presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, San Diego: California.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Haberkern, K. and Szydlik, M. (2008) Pflege der Eltern – Ein europäischer Vergleich [Care of the Parents - A European Comparison], KZfSS Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 60(1): 78101. doi: 10.1007/s11577-008-0004-y

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Huenchuán, S. (2009) Envejecimiento, familias y sistemas de cuidados en América Latina, En Envejecimiento y sistema de cuidados: ¿oportunidad o crisis? Centro Latinoamericano y Caribeño de Demografía (CELADE) - División de Población de la CEPAL, pp 1128.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Igel, C., Brandt, M., Haberkern, K. and Szydlik, M. (2009) Specialization between family and state intergenerational time transfers in Western Europe, Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 40(2): 20326, https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-23385. doi: 10.3138/jcfs.40.2.203

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • INE (2018) Chile Population and Housing Census 2017, Instituto Nacional de Estadisticas, https://www.ine.cl/estadisticas/sociales/censos-de-poblacion-y-vivienda/poblacion-y-vivienda.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ingersoll-Dayton, B., Starrels, M. and Dowler, D. (1996) Caregiving for parents and parents-in-law: is gender important?, The Gerontologist, 36(4): 48391. doi: 10.1093/geront/36.4.483

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kalmijn, M. (2005) Intergenerational Solidarity: A Review of Three Theories and Their Evidence, [PhD Thesis], Tilburg: Tilburg University.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Keene, J.R. and Batson, C.D. (2010) Under one roof: a review of research on intergenerational coresidence and multigenerational households in the United States, Sociology Compass, 4(8): 64257. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9020.2010.00306.x

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  • 1 Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, , Chile

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