Time and Effort: A Second Look at Family Reciprocity by Older Singaporeans
Reciprocity is a powerful social motivation. What do older people give to their family in return for help received? We use data from the Panel on Health and Aging of Singaporean Elderly, Wave 2 (2011; persons ages 62+; N=3,103). Giving and receiving help are with family members other than spouse in the past year. Types of help are tangibles (money, food/clothes/other material goods) and nontangibles (housework/cooking, babysitting grandchildren, emotional support/advice, help for personal care, help for going out). Multivariate models predict giving help, using predictors about the older person's sociodemographic features, time commitments, availability of receivers and other givers, psychosocial features, illness/disability, and receiving help. Results show that older people give time and effort (nontangibles) in return for money and material goods (tangibles). This aligns with contemporary Singapore circumstances: Older people typically have ample time but limited financial resources, whereas their family members (often midlife children) have more ample financial resources but limited time. The 2011 results replicate and extend prior ones for 1995 and 1999, signaling continuing family reciprocity in a modernizing society.
Country of focus: Singapore.