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Family relations of older people: Personal and practical support

Summary: In this study, we examined older people's views and experiences of family relations in Iceland. Objectives: The goal was to explore the frequency and kinds of contact, and the support older people received from their adult biological children and stepchildren. Methods: We performed cluster sampling covering community centers in municipalities nationwide in Iceland. The questionnaire was answered by 273 older people, including 193 women (75%) and 64 men (25%). The average age was 79 years. About 200 (74%) lived in the capital area of Reykjavik, while 70 (26%) lived in the countryside. Findings: Older people received more support from biological children than stepchildren. Specifically, differences were found in both frequency and quality of contact. The results revealed gender differences; daughters offering more help and support than sons. Older women have more frequent contact and closer relationships with their biological children than with other children. Relationships with stepchildren were weaker in all respects. These results are discussed in connection to structural and cultural factors, with a focus on the implications of changes in family structure, new communication styles, and effects of media. Applications: Although the increased frequencies of divorce and stepparenting can affect connections within families, communities commonly disregard the different needs of stepfamilies, sometimes called "stepblindness". Policy makers and professionals such as social workers need to concede different needs of older people in stepfamilies. Conclusions: Conclusions are drawn from the perspective of welfare policy issues, such as the need of more precise law provisions and implementations on social services for families.

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Journal of Social Work
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