Childlessness and social support in old age

A literature review

  • Lenka Křenková Charles University, Family Federation of Finland


This structured literature review attempts to provide a comprehensive overview of literature on the topic of childlessness and social support in old age. In total, 33 articles that were published between January 2000 and July 2018 were reviewed. Articles to some extent covered topics of nonparents and their social support, social contacts, their social networks, and what are other socio-demographic factors that are possibly influencing these. There was no overall consensus on reviewed topics, but some findings emerged more frequently than others. Nonparents have smaller, but more diverse social networks, they seem to have less frequent social contacts with family, but they see friends and neighbours more often. Most articles depict childless as a vulnerable group with higher rates of loneliness. Childless elderly generally do not lack social support in forms of household help, yet their social networks appear to be less capable of providing intense care tasks. Among factors that also affect all above belong the cultural context, marital status, gender of the given individual, their age, and health status. Interestingly, within group of parents the family size, gender of children, and their proximity also play an important role in social support provision. This review also advices on a further study and development of the topic in the future.

Label for peer-reviewed scholarly publications
Sep 23, 2019
How to Cite
Křenková, L. (2019). Childlessness and social support in old age: A literature review. Finnish Yearbook of Population Research, 53, 25-50.