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Filial Responsibility

Filial Responsibility Expectations

Filial responsibility encompasses attitudes that endorse certain responsibilities or obligations that adult children should assume in addressing their parents' needs and in maintaining their well-being. Researchers examining filial responsibility attitudes have employed a variety of different measures (e.g., vignettes as in Wolfson et al. 1993 and item-scales as in Hamon and Blieszner 1990) with varying sample populations (e.g., grandchildren, college students, elder parents, multigenerational families). Most have also measured filial responsibility expectations in a universal way ("What should children do for parents?"), rather than asking individuals what they expect from themselves or from their own children ("What should my children do for me?") (Lee, Netzer, and Coward 1994a). Some inquire about a few select areas (e.g., shared living arrangements, financial assistance) of filial responsibility, whereas others are more comprehensive in their coverage, including items on instrumental, emotional, and contact norms.

Whether using samples from Canada (Wolfson et al. 1993), the Netherlands (Ikkink, Van Tilburg, and Knipscheer 1999), urban China (Chen and Adamchak 1999), or the United States (Hamon and Blieszner 1990), findings consistently reveal strong and persistent endorsement of filial norms by both adult sons and daughters (Wolfson et al.1993). Greatest support is given to the notion that children should offer emotional support to their parents, with less emphasis placed upon physical assistance and financial support.

Although parents want to maintain their independence and typically do not expect as much from their adult children as children expect from themselves (Hamon and Blieszner 1990; Novero Blust and Scheidt 1988), parents also hope that children will be there for them when called upon to do so. Samples of Floridians and urban Chinese indicated that parents with higher levels of education, more income, and better health have lower filial responsibility expectations (Lee, Netzer, and The ways in which adult children express filial responsi bility for parents include maintaining personal contact, providing affection and emotional support, sharing living arrangements, and helping their parents meet daily needs. PHOTOTEX/CORBIS Coward 1994a; Chen and Adamchak 1999). In addition, parents may alter their expectations of their children (from high to low) depending upon the characteristics of their children (i.e., how many are female and geographical proximity) rather than on their own personal circumstances (Lee, Netzer, and Coward 1994b). For instance, in South Korea, parents place greatest expectations on eldest sons rather than daughters or daughters-in-law (Won and Lee 1999). However, in many Western countries, because older mothers are more likely to be widowed and survive to older ages, they frequently hope to receive more from adult daughters.

Some cultural differences in expectations emerge. Expectations of shared living arrangements may be greater in Asian cultures (i.e., South Korea), where such practices are more common than in Western cultures (Won and Lee 1999). For Filipinos, respect, warmth and affection were the most strongly endorsed expectations, followed by instrumental support (Novero Blust and Scheidt 1988).

Within the United States, research has shown how racial differences affect norms in filial responsibility. Older African Americans expect more help from their adult children than do their white counterparts (Lee, Peek, and Coward 1998). Expectations for intergenerational coresidence and the exchange of financial assistance are greater among older African Americans and older Hispanics than among older whites (Burr and Mutchler 1999).

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & ParenthoodFilial Responsibility - Why Is The Issue Pertinent?, Filial Responsibility Laws, Filial Responsibility Expectations, Filial Responsible Behavior