Netherlands: Immigrant parents don't get the expected support from their children

Elderly immigrants expect more care from their children than Dutch elderly. In practice they get just as much help as the Dutch. This according to a study of sociologist Djamila Schans.

Though it's accepted in general that immigrants from non-Western societies think different about family relationships than the Dutch, there has been little research till now to confirm it. The study "Ethnic Diversity in Intergenerational Solidarity" of Djamila Schans is one of the first scientific analysis in this field.

"The objective in this study was to compare the attitudes and behavior between immigrants and ethnic Dutch taking into account the solidarity between parents and children as well as international solidarity. With this we wanted to test the theory about the decreasing role of family in western society and collectivist family ideal by immigrants. We had also studied what are the factors that influence these relationships for different generations," explains Schans.

The results from her study show that Turks and Moroccans agree much more often than the Dutch with the idea of intergenerational solidarity. Elderly immigrants expect in general more visits and care from their children. They take living by their children much more for granted than Dutch parents. Surinamese and Antilleans who took part in the study agreed less about with the idea of intergenerational solidarity than Turks and Moroccans, but still more than the Dutch.

However, differences in convictions are still not a guaranty for difference in behavior. "Results based on real data or received support show a different pattern. Here ethnicity was not of such decisive significance as was the case by attitudes. Although the pattern for the frequency of contact between parents and children was still the same - highest by the Moroccan and Turkish groups and lowest by the Dutch - the difference in the practical lending of support by children to parents seems on first sight not significant," according to Schans.

The results of Schans' study show several problems in the relationships between parents and children that are unique for immigrant families. Compared with Dutch parents, immigrant parents are more often dependent on the support of their children due to language problems and ignorance with other forms of institutionalized help. This dependence can cause a difference in the power relations within the family that can lead to tensions in the relationship between the generations.

"At the same time our study shows that the intergenerational solidarity is seen by immigrants as a very positive characteristic of their culture. It's a source of positive self-identification for them. In a time in which immigrants culture often appears negatively in the news, our respondents strongly stressed the "superior" family connections in their own culture. Though ethnic Dutch, who in general less like the specified norms for intergenerational solidarity, sometimes maintain very strong connections within their families."

Source: Wereld Journalisten (Dutch)

See also: Study site (English)

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