Volume 38 - Article 63 | Pages 2003–2026  

Intergenerational care for and by children: Examining reciprocity through focus group interviews with older adults in rural Uganda

By Enid Schatz, Janet Seeley, Flavia Zalwango

This article is part of the Special Collection 26 "Children and family dynamics in sub-Saharan Africa"


Background: Children’s wellbeing in sub-Saharan Africa depends on immediate family resources and capabilities, and on extended kin. Evidence suggests that older persons contribute extensively to children’s financial, social, psychosocial, and physical needs. Young people also provide care for older persons. Yet, most studies only capture one side of this relationship.

Objective: We draw attention to intergenerational care relationship reciprocity and the likely impacts on children’s wellbeing.

Methods: We analyze data from the Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute annual population census (2015–2016) in rural Kalungu District to establish the likelihood of intergenerational care exchange at the household level. Focus group discussions (FGD) with persons aged 60-plus provide information on the types of exchanges and outcomes impacted by the presence/absence of intergenerational care.

Results: Nearly a quarter of children (age 0–14) in our study site live in households with at least one person aged 60-plus; nearly four-fifths of persons aged 60-plus reside in a household with at least one child. The FGD data suggest that persons aged 60-plus spend considerable physical and financial resources supporting children in their networks, and simultaneously are dependent upon younger generations for various forms of support.

Conclusions: Older persons’ positive relationships with children in their care form a strong basis for the exchange of various types of support; when intergenerational tensions exist, reciprocal care may be less reliable. This intergenerational solidarity, or lack thereof, likely affects children’s wellbeing.

Contribution: Effective new measures of reciprocal care dynamics are needed to understand the impacts on children’s wellbeing.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Working with teams of "insiders": Qualitative approaches to data collection in the Global South
Volume 32 - Article 12

Comparing, Contextualizing, and Conceptualizing: Enhancing Quantitative Data on Women's Situation in Rural Africa
Special Collection 1 - Article 5

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