, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 49-63
Date: 10 Feb 2013

Ageism among College Students: A Comparative Study between U.S. and China

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Abstract

It is often assumed that Chinese people tend to have a more positive attitude toward aging and old age than Americans, due to the cultural generalization of collectivism versus individualism. This study aimed to critically examine this assumption by using first-hand empirical data collected in a Chinese and an American university (standardized surveys and in-depth focus group interviews). Respectively, 980 college students in China and 332 college students in the U.S. were recruited for the standardized surveys; whereas two focus-group interviews in each country (4 participants per group) were conducted to collect more in-depth information. Contrary to the common assumption, this study revealed that Chinese students actually hold more negative attitudes toward aging and older people compared to their American peers. It was also found that females tend to hold more positive attitudes than male students across both cultures, though American female students hold more positive attitudes than Chinese female students. Chinese students’ interactions with seniors are often limited to their grandparents whereas American students tend to reach out to non-grandparent seniors in larger communities. Chinese students’ more negative attitudes toward aging and older people may be a result of a combination of educational, social, and economic factors—a higher level of age segregation (geographically, socially, and intellectually) and a lack of gerontological curriculum in Chinese educational system, the caregiving burden faced by the one-child generation compounded with lack of governmental support for caregiving, as well as the rising youth-oriented consumerist culture.