Filial Norms, Altruism, and Reciprocity: Financial Support to Older Parents in China

Abstract

As a direct expression of filial piety, adult children, in particular sons, are expected to provide support to older parents in China. Despite concerns about a decline in traditional values, few empirical studies examine whether adherence to Confucian family values impacts adult children’s financial support of aging parents, or if other factors play a more central role. In the present study, I assess several categories of factors including filial piety, altruism, long-term reciprocity, and contemporary mutual exchange. Survey data from the 2002 wave of the Chinese Survey of Family Dynamics (CSFD) (N = 3768) was utilized. For both sons and daughters, agreement with filial piety values, parents’ education level and help with housework were associated with greater likelihood of economic support. For daughters, those with young children (under 18) were less likely to support parents. Among sons, those who received support from parents earlier in the life course (a wedding gift) were more likely to provide financial transfers.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    I began by looking at the CLHLS respondents (older adults) that were linked to the CSFD dataset. Among 3869 older adults who could be successfully linked to CSFD, on average each had 2.7 eligible children. I reshaped the data to make each eligible child of a CLHLS linked older adult have their own data entry for a total of 10,407 children. I compared the cross-tabulations by age group (35–44; 45–44; 55–65), sex, and coresidence status for those children in the CSFD and those not. Post-stratification involves classifying the sample by groups (here age group, sex, and coresidence status) and then weights individuals in each group (poststratum). The weight wh = rPh/rh is computed for reach sample in post-stratum h, where rh is the number of respondents in post-stratum h, Ph is the “population” proportion from all eligible children in the CLHLS dataset, and r is the respondent sample size(Little 1993; Smith 1991). For example, while coresident sons ages 55–65 make up only 2.77% of all qualifying children in the “population”, they comprise 14.24% of respondents in the sample. Therefore the weight for coresident sons ages 55–65 is 0.19499.

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Correspondence to Melanie Sereny Brasher.

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Brasher, M.S. Filial Norms, Altruism, and Reciprocity: Financial Support to Older Parents in China. Population Ageing (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12062-020-09316-0

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Keywords

  • Intergenerational relations
  • China
  • Financial support
  • Gender
  • Filial responsibility