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OBJECTIVES: This study investigates the role of gender, functional limitations, and social interaction in the association between instrumental support from adult children and parental depression. We apply self-determination theory to hypothesize about the role of physical needs and social resources on parental depression in a European context. METHOD: A sample of 6,268 parents older than 65 who have nonresident children from the first wave of Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (2004) is analyzed. We estimate logistic regression models to test for the association between instrumental support and depression. Physical needs, gender, and social interaction are used as moderators. RESULTS: Net of core factors that contribute to depression, including previous history of depression, there is a U-shaped pattern between receiving instrumental support and depression that persists across country regimes. For respondents with medium physical limitations, too little or too frequent support from children is associated with higher depression. For respondents with severe limitations, receiving at least some support is better than receiving none at all. The receipt of too frequent support from children increases the level of depression more for women than men. All interaction effects are comparable across country regimes. DISCUSSION: Heterogeneity in physical needs and resources of older individuals must be taken into account when assessing the effects of instrumental support on mental health.

Original publication




Journal article


J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci

Publication Date





981 - 994


Aging, Depression, Instrumental support, Intergenerational solidarity, Mental health, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Cross-Sectional Studies, Depression, Europe, Female, Humans, Male, Parent-Child Relations, Parents, Social Support, Young Adult