Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

A Vignette Study on Gendered Filial Expectations of Elders in Rural China

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

A Vignette Study on Gendered Filial Expectations of Elders in Rural China

Article excerpt

This investigation integrated vignette and survey design to study how sons' reduced availability and daughters' increased contributions to parents influenced Chinese rural elders' gendered filial expectations, measured with their beliefs about obligations of a vignette daughter and a vignette son to their postsurgery parent. The sample included 802 elders from 2001, 2003, and 2006 waves of a longitudinal study on rural elders in Anhui Province, China. Multinomial logistic regressions showed that the vignette sons' migration and actual daughters' previous contributions increased elder women's, but not men's, endorsement of the vignette daughter's obligations. The vignette son's child-care responsibilities affected neither women's nor men's beliefs, but the vignette daughters' migration and child-care responsibilities reduced respondents' expectations of the vignette daughter. This study directs attention to the discrepancy between social changes and individuals' attitudes because of structural lags as well as to the importance of examining factors that will reduce the discrepancy.

Key Words: Asian/Pacific Islander families, caregiving, culture, family roles, intergenerational relations, social support.

In rural China, elders usually rely exclusively on adult children to provide care when needs arise because of strong filial expectations stipulated by Confucian norms as well as practical reasons, such as the lack of access to formal services (Joseph & Phillips, 1999; Y. Lee & Xiao, 1998; Shi, 1993; Sung, 1995; Zimmer, 2005). As in other places where Confucian norms are deeply embedded in the culture, the traditional filial expectations in rural China are gender-biased that sons and their families should be the major providers for parents at their old age (Cong & Silverstein, 2008; K. S. Lee, 2010; W. Zhang, 2009). Although deeply rooted in the culture, these gendered filial expectations have developed with social conditions, such as patrilocal residence and a strong patrilineal tradition, because culture is hard to be disentangled from practical reasons (Logan & Bian, 1999; Swidler, 1986). Social conditions that nurtured gendered filial expectations have, however, been substantially modified or altered. The large-scale labor force migration from rural to urban areas in China as a result of modernization and urbanization has drifted adult sons away from their parents in rural areas and reduced the availability of sons (Giles & Mu, 2007). As another consequence of modernization, daughters have started assuming more active roles in their elder parents' support networks along with the society's gradual acceptance of gender equality ideology as well as women's increased self-esteem and economic autonomy (Xie & Zhu, 2009; H. Zhang, 2007). How will these social changes contest the gendered filial expectations? Which changes are more important? Few empirical studies have addressed these questions in rural China, in part because the strong son preference allows little variation in gendered filial expectations (China Research Center on Aging, 2003).

Drawing on the structural lag model and theories on intergenerational relationships, in this investigation we integrated a vignette and a survey design to examine how the availability of sons and contributions of daughters affect gendered filial expectations of elder fathers and mothers; specifically, we investigated how elders allocated responsibilities between a vignette daughter and son when their widowed parent needed 2 months of care after a surgery by manipulating the vignette son and daughter's migration status and their child-care responsibilities. We also related the way that elders allocated responsibilities to the share of support provided by their actual daughters and the migration experience of their sons. We expected that this would help us understand how much elders resist or adjust to social changes and which changes are most influential in changing gendered filial expectations. …

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