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Intergenerational Ambivalence: New Perspectives on Intergenerational Relationships in the German Welfare State

Prinzen (2014)


This paper deals with ambivalence in the working generation's attitudes towards the elder generation in the German welfare state. Whereas most researchers focus on either norms or self-interest in intergenerational relationships, ambivalence is widely neglected. Ambivalence denotes a simultaneous positive and negative evaluation of the elder generation. The theoretical framework is developed by combining two common perspectives on intergenerational relationships in the welfare state. The first is age-based self-interest that is often discussed in the context of ageing societies with scarce welfare state resources. The second perspective concerns the norms that individuals internalise when growing up both in society and in the family. Drawing on survey data from the Population Policy Acceptance Study in Germany, the empirical analysis first presents evidence of intergenerational ambivalence and, second, investigates whether the structural contradictions that confront individuals in certain situations cause ambivalent attitudes towards the elder generation. The findings show that the higher the structural contradictions of being young and holding strong societal norms towards the elder generation the higher the ambivalent attitude towards this group in the context of the welfare state.

Journal: Ageing & Society