The Open UniversitySkip to content

Older people without children

Reynolds, Jill (2009). Older people without children. In: Solo Living, 26 Oct 2009, Edinburgh, UK.

Full text available as:
PDF (Version of Record) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (315kB)
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


In a recent discussion about government proposals on care for older people (July 2009), the Radio 4 news presenter referred to a possible need to return to the attitude that it's the family's responsibility to look after its older members. Yet there is often already an expectation that the family – by which is usually meant children or grandchildren – can be relied upon to take an active part in the social life and any care arrangements for their older members. Indeed, social policy in much of the UK has tended to rely on the role of families when reducing the provision of social care through tax-supported services.
My interest is therefore in this sizeable group that is often excluded from discussions about ageing. What happens to people who do not have children to 'care' and how do they experience ageing?
Several research studies have challenged from different perspectives the widespread belief that relationships between adult children and their parents are crucial to the social support of older people (Davidson, 2004, Hoeffer, 1987, Koropeckyj-Cox, 2002, Koropeckyj-Cox, 2003, Thompson and Whearty, 2004, Wenger et al., 2000). There is a limited amount of qualitative research on the subjective experiences of childless people aged 60 years and over. I would like to undertake research exploring this area and interviewing people about their lives, relationships and identities, examining identity and self-representation through the discursive work and conversational moves undertaken.

Davidson, K. (2004) '�Why can't a man be more like a woman?�', The Journal of Men's Studies, 13(1, Fall), pp. 25–43.
Hoeffer, B. (1987) 'Predictors of life outlook of older single women', Research in Nursing and Health, 10, pp. 111–17.
Koropeckyj-Cox, T. (2002) 'Beyond parental status: psychological well-being in middle and old age', Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, pp. 957–71.
Koropeckyj-Cox, T. (2003) 'Three childless men's pathways into old age', in Gubrium, J. F. and Holstein, J. A. (eds), Ways of Aging, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing. Thompson, E. H., Jr and Whearty, P. M. (2004) 'Older men's social participation: the importance of masculinity ideology', The Journal of Men's Studies, 13(1, Fall), pp. 5–24.
Wenger, C., Scott, A. and Patterson, N. (2000) 'How important is parenthood? Childlessness and support in old age in England', Ageing & Society, 20, pp. 161–82.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item
Copyright Holders: 2009 The Author
Extra Information: A Centre for Research on Families and Relationships seminar
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) > Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
Related URLs:
Item ID: 24436
Depositing User: Jill Reynolds
Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2010 12:36
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2018 02:23
Share this page:

Download history for this item

These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU