Children and the Mental Health of Older Adults in China: What Matters?

  • Zheng Wu
  • Margaret J. Penning


China is witnessing several major demographic, socioeconomic, and cultural trends that likely intersect in unique and significant ways to influence the health and well-being of its older adult population. Concerns that such trends may be eroding traditional family structures and values raise questions about the continued importance and impact of children on the lives of their older parents. Do children matter and, if so, what is it about having children that makes a difference to the mental health of their parents? This study addressed these issues using baseline data drawn from the Chinese Longitudinal Aging Social Survey, conducted in 2014. Multivariate OLS regression analyses revealed the importance of having children for parental mental health. This relationship was found to be mediated by economic/utilitarian factors (co-residence, the receipt of financial, and instrumental support) as well as psychological/emotional factors (companionship, emotional support), and social/traditional factors (children’s socioeconomic status achievements). These findings support the view that children continue to be important to the mental health of their older parents in contemporary China. Further, what matters most when it comes to understanding the influence that children have on parents’ mental health are their perceived accomplishments in life and their meaningful presence in the day-to-day lives of their parents.


Aging China Depression Intergenerational relationships Value of children 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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