Beyond solidarity, reciprocity and altruism: Moral capital as a unifying concept in intergenerational support for older people

Merril Silverstein, Stephen J. Conroy, Daphna Gans

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

44 Scopus citations

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to review, contrast and synthesise several major intellectual streams that have guided theoretical development and empirical research in the area of intergenerational family support to older people: (a) normative-integrative approaches that focus on cohesion between family members based on bonds of solidarity and norms of filial obligation, and (b) transactional approaches that are primarily concerned with identifying motives for resource transfers across generational lines. We propose the concept of moral capital a- defined as the stock of internalised social norms that obligate children to care for and support their older parents a- the transmission of which lies at the intersection of self-interest (for parents) and altruism (for children). Using data from a multigenerational family study, we present an empirical analysis showing that a strong positive correspondence in the filial obligations of adult children and their older mothers a- arguably the result of intergenerational transmission a- elevated the supportive behaviour of children. We suggest that moral capital may be a useful unifying concept that bridges disciplinary and theoretical divides in the study of intergenerational transfers to elderly people by helping resolve the paradox of how self-interest and selflessness can co-exist within families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1246-1262
Number of pages17
JournalAgeing and Society
Volume32
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2012

Keywords

  • ageing families
  • altruism
  • intergenerational relations
  • moral capital
  • social support
  • solidarity
  • transfers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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