How Do Intergenerational Relationships Change When a Parent’s Death Gets Closer? Evidence from Rural China

Zhen Cong, Yaolin Pei, Merril Silverstein, Shuzhuo Li, Zhirui Chen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter


Guided by socioemotional selectivity theory and theories of intergenerational transfers, this study of older adults in rural China used time-to-death as a key timing indicator to investigate how adult children’s financial transfers and emotional closeness with older parents changed as parents’ became closer to deaths and whether such changes were conditional on parents’ and children’s characteristics. The sample derived from rural Anhui Province and included 885 deceased older adults, who reported their interactions with 3, 393 children, which altogether formed 8, 474 observations across six waves of measurement between 2001 and 2015. Growth curve analysis with random intercepts showed that, as death approached, fathers reported closer emotional relationships with their children. For mothers, only emotional closeness with daughters declined. Both older fathers and older mothers reported increasing financial transfers from their children as death got closer. Mothers with lower job prestige experienced a slower increase in children’s financial support, which was not observed for fathers. Findings were discussed in terms of the usefulness of time-to-death as an objective measure of a family’s heuristic understanding of older adults’ life-time remaining.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAging Families in Chinese Society
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781000428513
ISBN (Print)9780367858896
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Psychology


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