Attitudes towards filial responsibility have changed

A new study published in the Finnish Yearbook of Population Research compared 11 European countries and found that attitudes towards filial responsibility had decreased between 2001 and 2017. The shift was observed in 10 countries, and most substantially in Hungary, France, Denmark, and Finland. Particularly in Finland, women aged 55 or more appeared to be more critical towards care duties.  

Policymakers are increasingly placing hope on middle-aged children to take on a larger role in caring for their parents, although this study suggests that it may be difficult to shift the responsibility onto offspring. In some countries welfare systems have been developed to foster independent living and voluntary intergenerational communication. In such countries, older adults may have larger expectations of public services in case of need.

As authors, Juha Kääriäinen, Mirkka Danielsbacka, and Antti Tanskanen point out in their article: “Interaction is optimal when it is voluntary, not enforced.” Therefore, enhancing welfare state services may increase the voluntary willingness for interaction and mutual aid between older adults and their adult children.

The article by Hilde Orderud, Niko Eskelinen, and Matti Lindberg found that the seasonal variation in birth weight for singleton full-term infants has diminished over the last 35 years in Finland. Since mothers with multiple children tend to have larger babies, with the second child usually being heavier than the first, this trend might be related to the general fertility decline.

The authors detected that seasonality in births follows the same pattern as seasonality in birth weight, with peaks in spring and autumn. Seasonal fluctuations are noticeable between regions, with Northern and Eastern Finland indicating lower birth weight on average. This pattern may be due to conditions that vary between siblings, such as greater climate variations or maternal stress during pregnancy.

The study by Joan Damiens explored the relationship between residential moves, union transitions, and suicides in Belgium. The findings point to the potentially protective role of having a flexible housing market in alleviating the effects of mobility on mental health and suicide mortality.

An investigation by Eva Österbacka and Tapio Räsänen disentangled the associations between childcare leave lengths and workplace characteristics in Finland. They found that the length of childcare leave among mothers varied based on employment sector, number of employees, peers’ leave length, and the share of women in the workplace. The results indicate the necessity of a more gender-egalitarian division of childcare leaves, which eventually could affect the gender pay gap. 

This issue of the Yearbook also includes research findings on fertility intentions in Finland, family formation change in Namibia and data reports of the Generations and Gender Surveys (GGS) carried out in Estonia, Finland, and Sweden in 2021–2022. 

GGS is part of the international Generations & Gender Programme data infrastructure, aiming to understand changes in family, gender and fertility related behaviour and attitudes across countries. In this yearbook, teams of three GGS participating countries report on the first web based GGS data collection procedures and data quality. 

Finnish Yearbook of Population Research, Vol 57 (2023–2024)

More information 

Liili Abuladze, guest editor, Väestöliitto 

Hans Hämäläinen, guest editor, University of Turku 

Tiina Helamaa, editorial secretary, Väestöliitto 

The Finnish Yearbook of Population Research is published together with the Migration Institute of Finland, the Finnish Demographic Society and Väestöliitto. 

Finnish Yearbook of Population Research