Grandparents caring for grandchildren in rural China: consequences for emotional and cognitive health in later life

Merril Silverstein, Dongmei Zuo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


In rural China, where families serve as critical safety-nets for their vulnerable members, grandparents play an essential role caring for the offspring of their migrant children. Evidence is mixed as to whether caring for grandchildren provides health benefits or incurs health risks. In this article, we used six waves of data from a study in rural China to examine the impact of caregiving for grandchildren on grandparents’ emotional and cognitive health. Further, we examined financial transfers from adult children as a resource that potentially moderates the impact of high intensity caregiving on these outcomes. Data derived from six waves (2001–2015) of the Longitudinal Study of Older Adults in Anhui Province, China. We constructed 2,835 person-interval observations derived from 1,067 grandparents to examine lagged change in depressive symptoms and cognitive ability. Results show that caregiving frequency is not by itself harmful or beneficial to the emotional and cognitive health of grandparents, but it does appear to be harmful in the context of custodial care that is less economically supported by adult children. These results are discussed in terms of their relevance to intergenerational reciprocity in a filial culture, time-for-money exchange expectations, and the need for financial resources among caregiving grandparents in rural China.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2042-2052
Number of pages11
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2021


  • Grandparents
  • family care
  • intergenerational relations
  • mental health
  • rural China

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Grandparents caring for grandchildren in rural China: consequences for emotional and cognitive health in later life'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this