A cohort comparison of older Chinese grandparents caring for their grandchildren in rural China

Merril Silverstein, University of Southern California
Zhen Cong, Texas Tech University

We examined how recent changes in family size, economic resources, education, and health in rural China have altered the degree to which grandparents care for their grandchildren. Using the Longitudinal Study of Older People in Anhui Province, we compared two cohorts of grandparents aged 60-68 years surveyed in 2001 (N=553) and 2009 (N=370). Descriptively the cohorts were no different in their grandchild care provisions. However multivariate path models revealed that forces driving cohort change worked in opposite directions. Having smaller families, fewer grandchildren, fewer migrant sons, and better educated adult children reduced childcare in the 2009 cohort. Lower levels of depressive symptoms enhanced the provision of grandchild care, and better physical health increased the odds of providing full-time custodial care in this later cohort. We conclude that social change in China has reduced the demand for grandparents to provide care but increased their capacity to do so, producing a dynamic equilibrium.

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Presented in Session 14: Ageing and intergenerational relationships