In this paper we examine differences between and within three European countries in the proportion of elderly parents who have contact with a child at least once a week. We use nationally representative survey data from Finland, France and Italy which includes information on availability of children and extent of contact, as well as on relevant parental characteristics. Results confirm the higher level of parent adult-child contact in Italy than in the more northern European countries, but the proportion of parents seeing a child at least on a weekly basis was high in all the countries we considered. Multivariate analysis showed that paternal divorce was associated with a reduced probability of frequent contact between fathers and children in all countries and in Finland maternal divorce had a similar effect on probability of frequent contact between mothers and adult children. Number of children and levels of education were also associated with variations in proportions of these meetings. We also present for France possible future scenarios of contact with children that combine the observed effects of the explanatory variables with hypothetical changes in population distribution. Our results are consistent with other studies which have pointed to differences between Northern and Southern Europe in extent of family affiliation, although reasons for these differences are still poorly understood. However, our results also suggest that concerns about declining family networks among older people in Northern Europe may be overstated, given the frequency of contact between parents and adult children.
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