Norms of Filial Obligation in the Netherlands

Quality of life of the over-60s in Europe: a gender perspective
By Pearl A. Dykstra, Tineke Fokkema


In this article we examine to what extent norms of filial obligation in the Netherlands are shaped by group value patterns, family constellation, possibilities for helping others, and actual experiences of support exchange. The data are drawn from the first wave of the combined main and migrant sample of the Netherlands Kinship Panel Study, the Dutch participant in the Generations and Gender Programme. The Dutch appear reluctant to prescribe how other people should behave towards their ageing parents. Value patterns are the strongest determinants of filial norms, with migrants, the low-educated, and persons with religious beliefs espousing strong filial norms. Contrary to what traditional gender roles would suggest, women less strongly endorse norms of filial obligation than men, and contrary to the notion that divorce weakens family ties, divorcees and children of divorce do not exhibit less commitment to filial norms. Altruistic tendencies are evident in the weaker filial norms among the older age groups, and among those with non co-resident children. Finally, the results show a high level of consonance between actual support exchanges and filial norms.


  • Norms
  • filial obligation
  • value patterns
  • support for older parents
  • Netherlands
  • Netherlands Kinship Panel Study
Go to the article on