Family Support and Quality of Life: Structured Ambivalence As Bridging Concept Between the Individual and the State

Friday, July 18, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: 301
Oral Presentation
Franz NEUBERGER , Institute of Sociology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Klaus HABERKERN , Institute of Sociology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
The relation between family support and the welfare state as providers of support has been extensively researched in Europe. Most studies thereby focus on the quantitative dimensions, e.g. who provides how much support to whom. Existing research is descriptive in nature and rarely based on a sound theoretical frame. A qualitative dimension that might contribute to the theoretical discussion, however, receives little attention, e.g. what are the motives for providing support to one’s kin, and what is the effect of providing support on one’s quality of life?  

Using the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe data with 16 European countries, differences in the effects of family support on the quality of life of people aged 50+ are analysed by applying hierarchical linear models with random effects and cross-level interactions.

The concept of structured ambivalence as a link between micro (individual behaviour) and macro (cultural and institutional context) is used to explain these differences. Structured ambivalence is thereby defined as discrepancy between individual behaviour and contextual factors and assumed to reduce quality of life. Our findings show that support providers’ quality of life is not only shaped by individual circumstances, but by cultural norms and social policies. Structural ambivalence lowers QoL, e.g. when family members do not live up to prevailing family expectations and obligations. Doing so, we provide a fruitful application of structured ambivalence as theoretical concept as well as new insights in the relation between social policies, individual action and quality of life.