Responsibility Inferences and Judgments About Helping Older Parents and Stepparents

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The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of responsibility inferences on judgments about helping older parents and stepparents with activities of daily living, health management, and recovery in the aftermath of an illness or injury. Using Weiner’s theory of responsibility inferences as a guiding framework, we evaluated (1) the amount of intergenerational aid adult (step)children should provide, (2) the extent to which adult (step)children were perceived to be obligated to help, (3) the extent to which government agencies should assist, and (4) attitudes about older adults’ responsibilities to help themselves. A sample of 252 adults was obtained using the Qualtrics online survey platform. Hypotheses derived from Weiner’s theory received support regarding responsibility inferences and perceptions about public assistance and personal responsibility to resolve problems. The theory was only partially supported, however, when examining intergenerational help to older kin, being at fault reduced expectations for providing help only under some conditions, and perceived obligations to kin were never affected by culpability.