SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

Grandparents and Grandchildren in Rural China

Professor Merril D Silverstein (Syracuse University)

Date: 3 October 2016Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 3 October 2016Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G3

Type of Event: Forum

 Merril D Silverstein


Grandparents in rural China serve as important sources of childcare for the children of migrant parents. Improved health and longevity of the older population implies that grandparents are better equipped to take care of grandchildren, as well as increasingly likely to survive long enough to see their grandchildren reach adulthood—even as smaller family size has reduced the number of children and grandchildren available to them. This presentation examines the contributions that older grandparents in rural China make to their young grandchildren and the support they later receive from those grandchildren as adults. Two samples—one regional and another nationally representative—are used to examine (1) how grandparents’ care for grandchildren has changed from 2001-2009 in relation to improvements in health and smaller family size; (2) whether grandparents are emotionally closer to adult grandchildren to whom they earlier provided care, and (3) the extent to which grandparents receive support and care from their adult grandchildren and the family conditions that enhance or inhibit those contributions. Results of these analyses are discussed in light of demographic family change and the persistence of the mutual aid family system in rural China.


Merril Silverstein, Ph.D., is inaugural holder of the Marjorie Cantor Chair in Aging Studies at Syracuse University in the Maxwell School, Department of Sociology and the Falk College, Department of Human Development and Family Science. He received his doctorate in sociology from Columbia University in 1990. Prior to his current appointment, he served as Professor of Gerontology and Sociology at the University of Southern California. In over 150 research publications, Dr. Silversteinhas focused on the topic of aging in the context of family life, with an emphasis on intergenerational relationships, social support, grandparenting, religiosity, and international-comparative perspectives. Dr.Silverstein currently serves as principal investigator of the Longitudinal Study of Generations, a project that has tracked multigenerational families for more than four decades. He originated the Longitudinal Study of Older Adults in Anhui Province that for fifteen years has focused on the well-being and intergenerational exchanges of elders in rural China. He also has had collaborative projects in Sweden, the Netherlands, Israel, and Germany on related topics. Dr. Silverstein is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, the Brookdale National Fellowship Program, and the Fulbright International Senior Scholars Program. He recently completed a five-year term as editor-in- chief of Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences.

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