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Family Matters No. 50 - June 1998

Family Support and Exchange

Christine Millward

Abstract

As western societies restructure their social support policies, economic considerations are now typically playing a dominant role that is impacting on the flow of social exchanges. In this context, what is the role of the family as a source of social support? Is there enough mutual interest and sense of obligation within families to ensure ongoing intergenerational family support and exchange? This article examines the role of the family as one of the key institutions of support and exchange within a changing social environment. It asks what the family does, what its members expect, and to what extent it is comparable with other informal or formal institutions in society.

As western societies restructure their social support policies, economic considerations are now typically playing a dominant role that is impacting on the flow of social exchanges. In this context, what is the role of the family as a source of social support? Is there enough mutual interest and sense of obligation within families to ensure ongoing intergenerational family support and exchange? This article examines the role of the family as one of the key institutions of support and exchange within a changing social environment. It asks what the family does, what its members expect, and to what extent it is comparable with other informal or formal institutions in society.

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