The Contribution of a Longitudinal Approach to Family Solidarity Surveys: Reflections on the Temporality of Exchanges

Marianne Kempeneers, Éva Lelièvre, Catherine Bonvalet


The topic of intergenerational family solidarity which is the focus of
unprecedented interest for both policy makers and researchers, has promoted
numerous studies centered on the bonds that unite generations and the dynamics of family solidarity through time. The notion of time is thus central to this field of research. In this paper, after an overview of various longitudinal perspectives adopted in family solidarity surveys; we identify the major methodological challenges raised by the dynamics of “family solidarity”. Three distinct temporal aspects must be considered: historical time, which applies to the maintenance of solidarity over time despite structural change in both families and society; generational time implied by the primacy of intergenerational exchanges; and finally, biographical time, which refers to the calendar of individual and family trajectories. An extensive array of quantitative data collections are examined to illustrate how they allow to study these different aspects of the temporality of exchanges.

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