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Filial Responsibility

Filial Responsible Behavior

Many variables influence what children actually do for their parents. For example, aging parents' life situations influence how much and the types of aid they receive. Parents who need greater assistance (e.g., are widowed and/or are in poor health), expect more help from their children, and actively seek that aid, are more likely to receive support than parents who neither expect nor ask for help (Cicirelli 2000; Hamon 1992; Ikkink, Van Tilburg, and Knipschneer 1999; Litwin 1994; Peek et al. 1998). It is interesting that in both the Netherlands and the United States, mothers are more often recipients of aid from their children than are fathers (Ikkink, Van Tilburg, and Knipschneer 1999).

The circumstances of adult children also influence filial role enactment. Filial concern about the well-being of one's parents positively affects children's inclination to provide emotional support and assistance; conversely, recalled negative family relationship histories negatively affect children's concern and subsequent help (Whitbeck, Hoyt, and Huck 1994).

The child's gender also comes into play. Meeting filial obligations appears to be a gendered activity, with more daughters serving as primary providers and carrying the bulk of filial work, although sons do provide care in many cases (Blieszner and Hamon 1992; Hamon 1992; Lee, Dwyer, and Coward 1993; Matthews 1995). Even in Eastern societies like China and South Korea, which have historically emphasized sons' as primarily responsible for parent care, daughters are increasingly providing more of the elder support (Chen and Adamchak 1999). Among siblings, daughters are more likely to assume nurturing roles and accept tasks related to personal care or domestic support than are sons (Dwyer and Coward 1991; Matthews 1995). In brothers-only sibling networks, sons tend to wait for parents to tell them when they need assistance, work independently of one another in providing for their parents' needs, perform masculine tasks (e.g., yard work, attending to plumbing problems), employ outside aid, work to restore and promote their parents' independence, and define their filial work as relatively inconsequential (Matthews and Heidorn 1998). In a Canadian sample, however, sons who coreside with aging parents are heavily involved in nontraditional forms of care (Campbell and Martin-Matthews 2000). Regardless of whether sons or daughters are providing care, children tend to provide more support to same-sex parents, especially in the realm of personal-care duties (Campbell and Martin-Matthews 2000).

Children's marital status may affect the amount of participation a child assumes in assisting parents. Married and divorced children may have a more difficult time providing active support to a parent (Cicirelli 1989; Matthews and Rosner 1988) than those who are single.

Full-time employment and number of dependent children in the home significantly reduced the amount of assistance provided by sons, but not that provided by daughters (Stoller 1983). Geographic location understandably affects the enactment of filial responsibility. Children who live close to or coreside with aging parents are more available to oversee and care for their needs (Matthews and Rosner 1988). As a consequence of economic development and industrialization in Taiwan, however, coresidence between elder parents and their adult sons is declining, but economic transfers and financial help between sons and their parents has increased. This shift may be compensating for the fact that young Taiwanese often must reside far from their parents' home in order to work (Chattopadhyay and Marsh 1999).

The number of siblings present within a family system affects the amount and type of support provided to parents by each individual. For example, in situations where two daughters are present, both appear to share equally for the care of their parent. Although joint responsibility occurs frequently in larger sibling groups, filial responsibilities are less likely to be divided equally. Birth order and a parent's relationship with particular children may also affect the enactment of filial responsible behaviors (Matthews and Rosner 1988).

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