Intergenerational support and depression among Chinese older adults: Do gender and widowhood make a difference?

Man Guo, Iris Chi, Merril Silverstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Using four-wave panel data of 1,327 older adults in rural China, this study examined potential gender and marital status differences in the relationships between three forms of intergenerational support (monetary, instrumental and emotional support) and the level of depression of the older adults. Results from a pooled time-series fixed-effects model showed that receiving and providing monetary support had a comparable beneficial effect on mothers and fathers, but mothers benefited more psychologically than fathers from closer relationships with their children. Exchanges in instrumental support was not related to either mothers' or fathers' level of depression. Widowhood further affected the gendered relationships between support and depression in that recently widowed fathers had a significantly higher level of depression when they received more monetary support from their children. In contrast, providing monetary support to children was associated with a significantly higher level of depression among recently widowed mothers. We explained the findings in the context of familial and gender norms in the Chinese culture and temporal needs for family support that link with bereavement coping stages among older adults. We argued that the gender and marital status patterns observed in this study are attributive to more fundamental differences in men's and women's social positions in the Chinese society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)695-724
Number of pages30
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • China
  • Depression
  • Gender differences
  • Intergenerational support
  • Older parents
  • Widowhood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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