The importance of ties between older people and their children has been widely documented as a fundamental component in the provision and receipt of support. While the reference to such support is usually made in a benign manner, it is overly simplistic to assume that support provided by family members will always and necessarily lead to positive outcomes for older people. A person's perception of the adequacy or quality of support is inevitably influenced by his or her expectation of the type, frequency and source of support preferred or required. Most existing British research on the family support of older people has concentrated on those from the white‐British majority with little cross‐group comparisons. This article reports on in‐depth qualitative research with 17 and 21 older people from white‐British and Asian‐Indian backgrounds respectively. It demonstrates how gender, ethnicity, migration history and a range of other factors interweave in complex manners to affect individuals' expectations for support from their adult children. The findings reveal commonalities and differences within and between groups and demonstrate that the association between expectations of support and resultant sense of well‐being is complicated and is often conditional. Stereotypes within and across groups need to be examined given the observation that while familial norms may be played out differently in different cultural contexts, individuals make sense of and rationalise their expectations for support to take into account the dynamics of changing structures and attitudes.