Caring for Aging Parents and Complex Family Structure

Family complexity, in the form of step-relationships, is increasing across cohorts. Filial obligation, or the social norm that adult children should care for aging parents, are generally weaker in stepfamilies. Further, gender continues to be a main axis of stratification of who provides care within families. Taken together, we test whether biological versus step ties, the gender of the adult child, and the interaction between these two factors are associated with helping aging parents (ages 65 and older) with functional or health limitation based care needs. We use Round 5 (2015) of the National Health and Aging Trends Study. Results illustrate the enduring strength of both biological and gendered ties for receiving care, but mixed results for unmet needs. These results suggest that not all complex families are the same in terms of outcomes for older adult care.