Washington, May 11 : Adult British kids help their elderly parents regardless of their marital status, says a new study, after comparing the data with other countries such as the United States, where parents with a history of divorce see less of their children and receive less help from them.
According to the research, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, British adult children help their elderly parents according to current need (i.e. health) rather than past behaviour.
Therefore, in the UK a parent that is living alone is more likely to receive help from children than parents with partners.
Children also give more help as the parent ages. For every extra year of the parent's age, he/she is 9 percent more likely to receive help from children not living at the same address. And parents with health problems are 75 percent more likely than those without health problems to be helped by their children.
Curiously, divorced parents get more help from children than if they are widowed, but both groups receive more help than if they still have a partner. And it helps to have more children. Parents with more children receive more support; however, stepchildren give stepparents less support.
In the research, the team analyzed data from an annual survey of over five thousand British households (British Household Panel Survey) from 1991 to 2003. They compared this information with a survey of over 3500 people at around retirement age (55-69 years) in 1988, and an Italian family survey.
The researchers led by Dr Karen Glaser found that children now help their elderly parents more than in the past. In 1988, 34 percent of parents aged 61-69 received regular or frequent help from their children; by 2001/2 this had risen to 43 percent. Almost two-thirds of older parents (aged 70 or over in 2001/2) received help from their children.
"Our research dispels the myth that modern Britain is becoming less caring. While families experience more divorce and separation, many children continue to care for parents according to their needs," Glaser said.
Comparing the UK with Italy, the researchers found the family oriented Italians care more for elderly parents regardless of need, whereas the pragmatic British gave support depending on the health situation of the elderly.