Self-interest and altruism in the relationships between generations can be manifested both within the family and in the public arena. The present study compares levels of support between age groups 40-49,50-59, 60-69, 70-79, and 80+ on a series of attitudes about “appropriate” parent-child relations and governmental programs for older people. On both kinds of measures, older people tend consistently to be least likely to adopt the “pro-elderly” position. This association is maintained when controls are introduced in multivariate analyses. Altruism, not self-interest, seems to govern the attitudes of the older generation in this sample. This finding should mitigate potential conflicts over issues of intergenerational equity and fairness, both within the family and in public policy.

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