Males’ Later-Life Mortality Consequences of Coresidence With Paternal Grandparents: Evidence From Northeast China, 1789–1909

Abstract

In this study, we investigate the effect of early-life coresidence with paternal grandparents on male mortality risks in adulthood and older age in northeast China from 1789 to 1909. Despite growing interest in the influence of grandparents on child outcomes, few studies have examined the effect of coresidence with grandparents in early life on mortality in later life. We find that coresidence with paternal grandmothers in childhood is associated with higher mortality risks for males in adulthood. This may reflect the long-term effects of conflicts between mothers and their mothers-in-law. These results suggest that in extended families, patterns of coresidence in childhood may have long-term consequences for mortality, above and beyond the effects of common environmental and genetic factors, even when effects on childhood mortality are not readily apparent.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    A book-length user guide explains the origin of the data; describes the social, economic, and institutional context of the population it records; summarizes known strengths and limitations of the data; and discusses each variable (Lee et al. 2010). The guide and the data set are available for download (http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/DSDR/studies/27063).

  2. 2.

    The CMGPD-LN records age in Chinese sui. An individual is 1 sui at birth, and their age is incremented every lunar New Year. Ages reckoned in sui are, on average, 1.5 years higher than when reckoned in Western years.

  3. 3.

    For more details, see Lee et al. (2010).

  4. 4.

    Unrealistic values for mother’s age at the child’s birth here refer to ages older than 50 sui or younger than 10 sui. The sample contains 1,502 individuals whom we cannot link to fathers; 8,863 individuals whom we cannot link to mothers; 5,338 individuals whom we cannot link to grandfathers; and 19,903 individuals whom we cannot link to grandmothers. Most of these individuals were recorded in the earliest register years, so it is most likely that their parents or grandparents passed away before the earliest available register and never appear in our data. To account for the bias that may be associated with excluding these observations, we have also conducted analyses that include these observations and treat missing values for parents’ and grandparents’ characteristics as a separate category. The results do not differ from those presented in this article.

  5. 5.

    We use calculated year of birth rather than register of first appearance because children sometimes were not recorded in the registers until they were several years old.

  6. 6.

    It remains possible that a grandparent identified as alive at time of birth died in the interval between the compilation of the register and the birth of the child if the grandparent’s year of last observation was the same as the index individual’s calculated year of birth. Such occurrences are unlikely to have affected our results. Less than 2 % of the observations covered individuals whose grandparents were last seen alive in a register in the year of birth.

  7. 7.

    A diminutive name is a name whose pinyin (the official Romanization system for Standard Chinese) for a male’s given name included xiao (little) or zi. The presence of either of these in a given name typically indicates that the name is a diminutive: for example, xiaogouzi (little doggy) or xiaopangzi (little fatty). More details are explained in Lee et al. (2010).

  8. 8.

    In the adult and old-age mortality analyses, we also experimented with inclusion of controls for whether the individual held a diminutive name and whether his father held an official position. Neither of these variables is significant. In the end, we decided to leave own diminutive name out of the adult and old-age mortality analysis because it might reflect health. Conceivably, men in poor health might have delayed or forgone adaptation of a dignified name in adulthood.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Dwight Davis, Hao Dong, Noreen Goldman, James Lee, Evan Roberts, Xi Song, and members of the Lee-Campbell research group for their suggestions. Versions of this article were presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Boston, MA, May 1–2, 2014; and the Social Science History Association Annual Meeting, Toronto, ON, November 6–9, 2014. Preparation and documentation of the China Multi-Generational Panel Dataset, Liaoning (CMGPD-LN) for public release via ICPSR Data Sharing for Demographic Research (DSDR) was supported by NICHD R01 HD057175-01A1 “Multi-Generation Family and Life History Panel Dataset” with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

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Correspondence to Emma Zang.

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Zang, E., Campbell, C. Males’ Later-Life Mortality Consequences of Coresidence With Paternal Grandparents: Evidence From Northeast China, 1789–1909. Demography 55, 435–457 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-018-0653-z

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Keywords

  • Paternal grandparent presence
  • Mortality risks
  • Life course