A Vignette Study of Older Adults' Preferences for Intergenerational Transfers in the Context of Competition Between Grandparents and Grandchildren in Rural China

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


OBJECTIVES: The objective of this analysis was to examine older adults' preferences for economic support in the context of competition between grandparents and grandchildren for the middle generation's financial resources in rural China. Specifically, it examined how relative need, lineage, and gender of grandchildren depicted in a vignette were evaluated and how personal characteristics of the evaluators influenced beliefs for which generation should receive more support. METHOD: The sample consisted of 989 older adults participating in three waves of a longitudinal study in Anhui Province, China. Multinomial logistic regression was applied to examine how older respondents evaluated the relative priority of grandparents versus grandchildren in their claim for monetary assistance using a hypothetical vignette with randomized conditions. RESULTS: Relatively greater need of either the vignette grandparent or grandchild increased their priority to receive economic support. The vignette granddaughter was most disadvantaged in the competition with her paternal grandparent. Respondents who were single, in worse functional health, and whose children all migrated gave the vignette grandparent greater priority; those who coresided with children gave the vignette grandparent lower priority. DISCUSSION: Findings support the altruistic perspective on filial support and the corporate group/mutual aid model of family functioning, within the family system that differentiates patrilineal from matrilineal lines of descent. Under budget constraints, selective children are considered to have legitimate claims on the resources of the middle generation, tempering filial piety toward aging parents. Lack of personal resources plays a role in whether self-interest shapes beliefs that favor older over younger generations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)496-505
Number of pages10
JournalThe journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 15 2019



  • Chinese families
  • Filial piety
  • Intergenerational relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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