This project will support a U.S. graduate student to conduct research at the Universiteit Utrecht in the Netherlands. Building on prior research with the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), the student will work using the Netherlands Kinship Panel Study to investigate residential choice, intergenerational solidarity, and the transition to adulthood. Intergenerational exchanges between adult children and their parents are a critical resource for young and old, and residential proximity is the best predictor of these exchanges. No research to date has addressed the extent to which children who are emotionally closer to parents choose to live nearby. This project has two objectives: to test longitudinal models which evaluate the relationship between earlier parent-child cohesion and later residential proximity of young adults and their parents; and to compare intergenerational family dynamics for two societal contexts, the U.S. and the Netherlands, which differ along a number of salient dimensions.

This proposed research will contribute to determining whether early parent-child emotional closeness is related to later spatial proximity to parents. Coupled with analysis from the United States, the work using the Netherlands data set will provide the most persuasive evidence to date of the relationship between affectual and structural parent-child solidarity. The two country comparison will speak to the universality or context dependency of the solidarity-proximity relation between children and parents. The visit will also foster linkages between researchers working with the Dutch and U.S. datasets, and enable a U.S. student to build a long-term network with European collaborators.

Project Report

Residential location and choice have been studied from a variety of micro- and macro-theoretical perspectives and several different methodological approaches. However, little to no attention has been given to early-life factors (particularly family solidarity) as motivational factors for young adult residential location choices. Understanding the dynamics of parent-child proximity has many important theoretical and practical implications—namely, contact with parents (by way of spatial proximity to them) is a main facilitator in the transmission of care and support in family networks. While no one would doubt the importance of proximity to resource exchanges, to the extent that low intergenerational cohesion translates to greater residential distance, this research shows that the relationship between proximity and exchange has been overstated. Because research has not examined the association of the parent-child relationship with spatial proximity to parents in young adulthood, these analyses help clarify the role that selection based on early parent-child relationship quality plays in the established proximity-contact relationship. Through analysis of the Netherlands Kinship Panel Study—a large, longitudinal, geographically representative data set for the study of intergenerational cohesion—, the current research offers an extension of previous research on parent-child cohesion, intergenerational exchanges, and spatial proximity to parents. The main aim of this study was to examine the relationship between early parent-child closeness and later parent-child spatial proximity. For both mothers and fathers, each set of models yielded qualified evidence of this relationship. This finding highlights a potential selection issue related to intergenerational support and contact as it is facilitated by geographic proximity. Specifically, individuals who live closer to their parents have warmer relations with them earlier in life, which accounts for their geographic proximity in early adulthood. All in all, these findings paint a more complete picture of spatial proximity and residential choice. Although proximity is one of the strongest predictors of intergenerational exchanges, prior work may have overestimated the role of spatial proximity by not considering the emotional closeness between adult children and their parents that may select them into living closer and exchanging more resources and support.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Office of International and Integrative Activities (IIA)
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Graham M. Harrison
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University of California Irvine
United States
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