Type: Journal article
Publication date: November 2012
Published in: The Journals of Gerontology: Physiological Sciences and Social Sciences Vol. 67, No. 6, pp. 742-54
Objectives. To investigate whether number of children and, among parents, having a daughter is associated with older people's likelihood of at least weekly face-to-face social contact and later receipt of help if needed. Method. Multivariate analysis of data from Waves 1 and 2 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). RESULTS: Older parents in England had higher chances of at least weekly face-to-face social contact than their childless counterparts but larger family size had only a slight additional effect. For parents, having at least one daughter was more important than number of children. Larger family size was positively associated with receipt of help from a child by parents with activities of daily living (ADL) or instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) limitations. Childless women were more likely than mothers to receive help from friends but even so had lower odds of receiving help from any informal source. Contact with a child in 2002 predicted receipt of help 2 years later. Discussion. These results show some advantages for older parents compared with childless individuals in terms of social contact and receipt of help and, among parents, an additional effect of having a daughter. Changes in family size distributions have implications for the support of older people and for planners of formal services.