International Sunbelt Social Network Conference XXIII.                                                                                                                          

                           12-16. February 2003, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico








                                     Agnes UTASI:

                 Changes in family structure and solidarity in Hungary-

                     (Comparison of ISSP Social Network data 1986-2001)            


















                                  University of Szeged Department of Soicology

                              Correspondence: Institute for Political Science of the

                                           Hungarian Academy of Sciences

                                              H.1399 Budapest, Országház u. 30.                                         


                                Tel: (361)311-1420/ e-mail: UTASI@MTAPTI.HU









I. Theoretical frmae of Social Integration and Solidarity


From the perspective of social stratification, we can speak of integration only if society is not divided into extremely privileged and non-privileged strata. It means that full integration can not exist in a society characterized by inequities. As a consequence, integration can be defined as the rate of inequity which is acceptable and respectable by the majority and also tolerated by the social outcast.


Integration and Solidarity are considered as different dimensions of the same phenomenon. Integration can be regarded as the ideology, value-content of this phenomenon, while solidarity is the practical side of it. Integration comes into existence and keeps on living with the help of solidarity.





II. Two Levels of Social Solidarity

a)     Macro-social solidarity can be defined as solidarity driven by institutions.  Main purpose of this solidarity is to decrease the degree of inequities between social strata in order to preserve the integrity and stability of the social system.

b)    Micro-social solidarity refers to aids with which small communities help their members in need altruistically in order to protect these people from falling behind and in other cases to reach a higher standard of living by exchange of goods. These aids and transfers rely on trust and work within the network of strong relationships.



III. Conditions of Micro-social

a)     Altruism and/or deferred reciprocity

b)    Trust

c) "Love-relations" and/or interest-relations







IV. Questions About How Micro-social Solidarity Works in the Newly Established Hungarian Market Economy


1.     Question

What effects had market economy on the intensity of solidarity within small communities and families? New economic problems of market economy can generate solidarity within poor families and well-of people might show solidarity due to a possibility of a beneficial concentration of the family capital. On the other hand, people in the new market economy have more chance to reach individual well-being, and this selfish pursuit of enrichment might result in the disintegration of family as solidarity towards hangers-back of the community is weakening.


Empirical conclusions

Family solidarity, altruistic exchange of goods did not disappear, it can be confirmed that altruistic aid between family members still exist in case of need. (see Table )



2. Question

Which mechanism drives family related solidarity? Altruism and self-forgetfulness or market-natured reciprocity based on trust can be regarded as the main driver of transfers within the family?


 Empirical conclusions

a) The ratio between giving and receiving goods shows that in everyday life wealthy people help their relatives in need more often than poorer people. This fact indicates that altruism does work within the family and resourceful persons generally help relatives who are in need and have less resources. (see  Table )


b) The total amount of given and received goods shows who act most intensively in the network of family solidarity. The trend indicates that within the family resourceful persons show stronger solidarity and more intensive mutual aid towards each other. ( see Table).


Now we can confirm that family members do help each other altruistically, however, the exchange of goods among relatives is mainly characterised by reciprocity/deferred reciprocity.


c) Nevertheless, altruistic solidarity hardly works outside the network of strong family relationships (friends, in-laws and colleagues). In this area solidarity is mostly driven solely by reciprocity/deferred reciprocity (see Table )



3. Question

Who are excluded from the solidarity network and why?

Empirical conclusions

One fourth of the sample neither gives nor receives goods in their micro-communities. ( Figures from the ISSP/2001 Social Networks research show that neither of the followings occurred in their activities: housework, financial aid, emotional comfort, job offering.) The excluded ones are generally those who lack for resources: pensioners, disability pensioners and the oldest people.  Among the isolated persons who are excluded from the solidarity network 45% belongs to various groups of pensioners and another 36% represents the occasional workers. Exclusion is likely to be the consequence of lacking “loan standing” or “credit standing. Resourceless persons in need (old people, persons without any earnings, the poor, those in bad health) do receive altruistic aid from a close relative, but if they are not in urgent need of help, they refuse both giving and receiving in the network of informal strong relationships because they don’t want to become indebted. In this way they become excluded from the network of solidarity.


4.  Question

Can aid transfers carried out inside the solidarity network reduce inequities between social strata?


 Empirical conclusions:

In general, solidarity transfers of informal strong relationships does not reduce inequities between social strata. We have already acknowledged that inside homologous groups of the solidarity network reciprocity is more frequent than altruism. Higher social status implies more resources in the solidarity network and thus reciprocity leads to growing wealth for those belonging to this network. As a consequence, micro-social solidarity increases rather than decreases inequities between social strata. Investments in the solidarity network of resourceful strata are considered to be more profitable and resourceful people know that: more person join solidarity networks in the upper and resourceful strata of society


Members of lower and resourceless strata give and receive aid in urgent cases although they have limited access to resources. While within the lower strata limited resources are subject to further allocation in cases of urgent help, resources in the upper strata are more likely to bear interest with the help of solidarity network.



 5. Question

What significant differences can be found between the patterns of everyday solidarity and aid within families according to the data emerged from the ISSP/Social Networks researches from 1986 and 2001?


 Empirical conclusions:

The rate of stable partner relationships has decreased and people can expect less aid from these relationships.

a)     According to data reflecting family status between 1986 and 2001, frequency of single persons has greatly increased: the rate of stable relationships (marriage, partners in life) decreased by 14 per cent and parallel to this the rate of single persons increased by the same percentage (see Table )


b)    As the rate of stable relationships decreased, less person expect solidarity from his or her partner. This trend generated new patterns of everyday solidarity networks within the family.

--In case of bad health, respondents expect help mainly from family members. However, less person expect help from the partner and relatives, while the rate of those who count on his or her children and sister has increased. (see Table)

--The rate of those who expect borrowing money from parents has decreased, while more people count on children with “good earnings”. Because the lack of credit standing, in 2001 less people can turn to banks than in 1986, and that is why now four times as much person can not borrow considerable amount of money from anybody. The rate of supporters outside the family has decreased, while at present still every second respondent expect raising a loan from the family. (see Table )

--In case of emotional crises, the rate of those who count on the partner has decreased, while the rate of people expecting emotional comfort from their children has increased. The rate of those who would turn to their mother in case of emotional crises also reduced. Due to the physical closeness, significance of neighbours remained the same, while as a sign of decreasing trust outside the family, far less person expect emotional help from their colleagues. The rate of those who can not expect emotional help from anybody remained 10%.








Table 1

Correlation between aid received from the family and wealth ( KSH/ Rate of living 2000/4. N=10785)



Table 2

Correlation between aid given to the family members and wealth

(KSH/ Rate of living 2000/4. N=10785)













Table 3

Correlation between the intensity of given and/or received solidarity actions of family members/ relatives and wealth

(KSH/ Rate of living 2000/4. N=10785)






Table 4

Intensity of goods received from friends, neighbours and colleagues considering wealth.

( KSH/ Rate of living 2000/4. N=10785)









Table 5

Intensity of goods given to friends, neighbours and colleagues considering wealth

( KSH/ Rate of living 2000/4. N=10785)




                    Family status of the population over 15 years of age                             

                                             In 1986 and 2000 (%)

                 ( Samples: KSH/ Rate of living, 1986/4 N=9186,     2000/4 N=10549)                                      




                                       1986                                              2000                          Difference

 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Family status       male     female     total         male   female     total    2000-1986


married                 71,6     64,0    67,7          60,0       48,5      53,8         -13,9


spouseless            23,0    15,9    19,3           27,4       18,7      22,7        +  3,4


/widower              1,8    14,0     8,2             4,9       21,6         13,9        +  5,7


live apart               3,6      6,0     4,8             7,7       11,2          9,6         + 4,8


single total            28,4    35,9    32,3         40,0        51,5       46,2       +13,9








Partner relationships

(ISSP/2001 N=1524  over 18 years of age)


                   Singles without a stable partner          : 32.2%

                   Singles with a stable partner               :  9.1%

                   Lives with spouse/partner                           : 58.8%


                    Total                                                        :100.0%






Rate of people in different ages living without partner solidarity (spouse/partner in life/stable partner)

        ( TÁRKI, ISSP/ Social Networks / 2000, N:1524, over 18 years of age)


              Age                     Mean                    Male         Female       


              twenties              24.6%                  29.o%          19,6%

              thirties               18.2%                    21.4%          15.5%

              fourties              20.8%                   19.3%           21.9 %

              fifties                  25.3%                   17.1%           31.6 %

              sixties                40.7%                   17.5%           57,3 %

              seventies-X       57.5%                    26.2%           74.0 %

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------                Living without a stable partner 32,2 %         21,9 %          40,1%                                                                 



















     In case of a minor disease, who would/could you ask help from?

( ISSP/ TÁRKI/ Social Networks 1986 N=926, 2001 N=1524, over 18 years of age)


                                                                  1986                        2001


Spouse/partner                                    53,4           >          44,0

Mother                                                 14,6           =          14,8

Father                                                   1,1                          0,9

Daughter                                              10,8           <           13,3

Daughter-in-law                                     --                            0,8

Sun                                                        4,4           <             8,7

Sun-in-law                                              --                            0,1

Sister                                                       1,9            <            3,1

Brother                                                   1,5                           1,1

Other relative                                       3,2            >            2,4

Spouse’s/partner’s relative                     --                            1,2


Family/relatives total                             90,9               =         90,4


Friend                                                           2,4               <           3,1

Neighbour                                                    5,2                >          2,6

Colleague                                                        0,1                             0,1

Nurse                                                             0,2                             1,3

Paid help                                                       0,4                             0,1

Other                                                                 -                                0,5

Nobody                                                         0,8                             1,9


Total                                                      100.0                         100.0
















                             Who do you expect financial aid from?

  ( ISSP/ TÁRKI/ Social Networks 1986 N=926, 2001 N=1524, over 18 years of age)                                                                                  


                                                                  1986                           2001


Spouse/partner                                              3,2                              3,9

Mother                                                        14,3              >            11,2

Father                                                            4,4               >              3,6

Daughter                                                       6,6              <              9,0

Son                                                                 4,1              <             6,5

Sister                                                               2,3                             4,3

Brother                                                           3,2                             2,7

Other relative                                                  5,4                             5,4

Spouse’s/partner’s relative                                --                               2,3


Family/relatives total                                   43,5                            48,9


Friend                                                              3,9                             4,7

Neighbour                                                      1,8                             0,8

Colleague                                                        0,2                             0,5

Bank                                                              42,3             >            22,5

Employer                                                        1,7                              1,1

Social institution                                            0,9                              0,3

Private loan                                                     ---                              0,1

Other                                                               ---                             0,3

Nobody                                                            5,7              <           20,8


Total                                                         100.0                         100.0







             Who would you discuss your sadness and sorrow with?

  ( ISSP/ TÁRKI/ Social Networks 1986 N=926, 2001 N=1524, over 18 years of age)


                                                                      1986                2001


Spouse/partner                                           43,0           >         40,7

Mother                                                         9,5             >          6,0

Father                                                            1,1                          0,3

Daughter                                                      4,5              <         9,0

Son                                                                 2,1               <        3,6

Sister                                                             3,5                         4,1

Brother                                                          2,4                         1,5

Other relative                                                 1,7                         2,5

Spouse’s/partner’s relative                              --                           0,3


Family/relatives total                                  67,8                       68.0


Friend                                                           14,5                        14,6

Neighbour                                                      3,4                         3,4

Colleague                                                        2,5          >            0,8

Priest                                                             0,3                        0,6

Family doctor                                                0,7                         0,7

Psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist              0,2                         0,6

Mutual-aid team                                             0,0                         0,1

Other                                                              0,2                         0,7

Nobody                                                         10,4             =       10,5


Total                                                          100.0                       100.0