Frequency of contacts with the family is an indicator of the strength of intergenerational exchange and potential support for older people. Although the availability of children clearly represents a constraint on potential family support, the extent of interaction with and support received from children depends on factors other than demographic availability alone. This study examined the effects of socio-economic and demographic variables on weekly contacts with children in Great Britain, Italy, Finland and The Netherlands using representative survey data which included information on availability of children and extent of contact. Our results confirm the higher level of parent adult-child contact in Italy than in northern European countries, but levels of contact in all the countries considered were high. Multivariate analysis showed that in most countries characteristics such as divorce were associated with a reduced probability of contact between fathers and children; in Finland this also influenced contact between mothers and children. Analyses are also included of possible future scenarios of contact with children that combine the observed effects of the explanatory variables with hypothetical changes in population distribution. © Springer-Verlag 2004.