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Eur J Ageing. 2011 Aug 4;8(3):189. doi: 10.1007/s10433-011-0196-2. eCollection 2011 Sep.

Grandparents in multigenerational households: the case of Portugal.

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Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão (ISEG), Lisboa, Portugal.
SOCIUS, Lisboa, Portugal.


Population ageing has paved the way for important and lasting multigenerational bonds, particularly between grandparents and grandchildren. Proximity is a powerful enhancer of relations, and co-residence, by involving continual proximity and long-term commitment, is particularly facilitative of significant linkages between generations. Although co-residence has generally been decreasing in Western societies, in the last decades of the millennium, a trend reversal was identified in the proportion of multigenerational households in the USA. Using data drawn from the European Community Household Panel, 1994-2001, some descriptive insights are provided that were considered to be missing in regard to the socio-demographic composition of extended households with grandparents in Portugal. Additionally, this study finds a rising trend in the proportion of multigenerational households, specifically those that include both grandparents and grandchildren. Portugal is possibly the European country that has the highest probability of exhibiting this pattern of evolution, because of the combination of its being a welfare state with limited resources, its historical reliance on family solidarity and its high level of participation of women in the labor market. Co-residence is a type of intergenerational transfer that can benefit any of the generations involved, but the direction of its net flow is still open to debate. A breakdown is made of its trend into age, period and cohort effects, in order to contribute to the discussion of the relative importance of the different generations in the shared living arrangement. Our findings suggest a mixture of interests, as well as a predominant influence of contemporary circumstances in the observed trend. These contemporary circumstances may be persistent or transient, but co-residence with grandparents is certainly an enduring mechanism, which households use in order to meet their needs.


Ageing; Co-residence; Grandparents; Multigenerational households; Portugal

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