This paper discusses filial norms, personal preferences for care, and policy opinions about the proper role of the family and the welfare state in elder care, by drawing from a comparative study of urban populations in Norway, England, Germany, Spain and Israel. Support for filial norms has a north-south dimension in Europe, and is highest in Spain and Israel and lowest – but still substantial – in Norway, England and Germany. National differences in preferences and policy opinions are more substantial, and more or less congruent with national family and social policy traditions. Filial solidarity is, however, not incompatible with generous welfare state arrangements, nor do filial obligations necessarily imply that the family is seen as the ‘natural’ care provider. In fact, many in the countries with the highest scores for filial responsibility still find the welfare state to be the main source of care provision. Normative familism is correlated with expressed familism in individuals' preferences and in policy opinions, but the correlations are weak, implying that while filial solidarity may be resilient, as circumstances alter its expressions change.