Emotional Closeness between Grandparents and Grandchildren in Rural China: The Mediating Role of the Middle Generation

Ling Xu, Merril Silverstein, Iris Chi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Grandparent-grandchild relationships are important in Chinese society and the middle generation plays an important role in them. The present study drew on data from the 2009 wave of the Longitudinal Study of Older Adults in Anhui Province, China, to examine variation in emotional closeness between grandparents and their grandchildren. Our focus was on the middle generation as a relational bridge to grandchildren in terms of grandparents' gender, emotional closeness to their adult children, and kinship status (paternal versus maternal lineage). We analyzed reports from 926 grandparents about their relationships with 1,982 grandchildren. Logistic cluster regression analyses revealed that closeness between grandparents and their adult children was strongly associated with grandparent-grandchild closeness. Paternal grandparents reported closer relationships with their grandchildren than did maternal grandparents, and these relationships were particularly strong for paternal grandmothers. Contrary to what we had hypothesized, the influence of emotional closeness to adult children was not moderated by lineage. We conclude that the middle generation provides an important bridge between grandparents and grandchildren and that gender and lineage type serve as strong facilitators of these relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-240
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Intergenerational Relationships
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Chinese families
  • aging families
  • emotional closeness
  • family systems
  • grandparenting
  • intergenerational relations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Archaeology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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