Intergenerational transfers and living arrangements of older people in rural China: Consequences for psychological well-being

Merril Silverstein, Zhen Cong, Shuzhuo Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

520 Scopus citations


Objectives. The migration of working-age adults from rural to urban China has altered traditional patterns of living arrangements and intergenerational support among elderly persons who remain in rural regions. This investigation examined how household composition and support exchanges with adult children influenced the psychological well-being of older parents in rural China. Methods. Data derived from a 2001 survey of 1,561 parents aged 60 and older living in rural Anhui Province, China. We used multiple regression in order to estimate the effects of multigenerational living arrangements and intergenerational transfers of financial, instrumental, and emotional support on depression and life satisfaction in older parents. Results. Older parents living in three-generation households or with grandchildren in skipped-generation households had better psychological well-being than those living in single-generation households. Receiving greater remittances from adult children increased well-being and explained why living with grandchildren was beneficial. Stronger emotional cohesion with children also improved well-being. Discussion. These results suggest that traditional family arrangements are beneficial in rural Chinese society as they represent the fulfillment of a cultural ideal. We discuss implications in the context of the corporate Chinese family, characterized by mutual aid and interdependence across generations, and its adaption to social change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S256-S266
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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