With an increasing number of persons entering old age and having longer life expectancies, there has been a consequent alteration of family dynamics, such that middle aged individuals frequently provide support to their older parents. At the same time, the middle aged person is often in the midst of raising his or her own children, attending to personal aspirations, and enacting the role of spouse.
This study investigated support from middle aged offspring to elderly parents in a rural Mennonite community. Information on the expectation for and consequences of support to parents was gathered from pastors and middle aged family members in two Mennonite conferences, as well as from a Lutheran sample with a similar historical background.
Pastoral interviews showed no differences in doctrinal beliefs regarding familial care of parents, although the institutional church responses varied. Middle aged offspring in the Lutheran congregation reported less involvement in religious practice than did members of either Mennonite congregation. Burden of caring for elderly parents felt by middle aged people showed no statistically significant differences between congregations; however, greater reported religiosity was associated with lesser burden.