Childlessness is an increasingly common condition in many European societies. The consequences that this phenomenon might have on European welfare systems are widespread. Using data from the ISTAT survey on Family and Social Subjects, the paper explores the effect of the absence of children on the risk of lack of social support in old age in Italy. It also expands the standard approaches to the topic by examining how the relation between childlessness and lack of support varies throughout the individuals’ life course. The results of the analyses show that childless people tend to receive less support at early stages of their life and as much support as parents when they grow very old and frail. However, it is mainly public services and volunteering organizations that substitute the support usually provided by children. In addition, it is found that the type of support that the childless elderly receive tends to be non‐personal and less intensive.
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