Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Intergenerational Exchanges of Middle-Aged Adults with Their Parents and Parents-in-Law in Korea

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Intergenerational Exchanges of Middle-Aged Adults with Their Parents and Parents-in-Law in Korea

Article excerpt

The Western literature on intergenerational exchanges has focused on support that is exchanged with one's own parents, but both parents and parents-in-law are central in the lives of married adult children (Bryant, Conger, & Meehan, 2001; Fingerman, Gilligan, VanderDrift, & Pitzer, 2012; E. Lee, Spitze, & Logan, 2003). Many married adults exchange various types of support with both sets of parents, and those exchanges play an important role in both older parents' and adult offspring's well-being (Chu, Xie, & Yu, 2011; Cong & Silverstein, 2008). Given the competition for and depletion of resources that an individual can provide, it is critical to take into account help given to each set of parents and the dynamics between marital partners when dividing their time and energy (Davey, Janke, & Savla, 2004). Studies have included in-laws mainly when caregiving for older parents was involved (Henz, 2009; Ingersoll-Dayton, Starrels, & Dowler, 1996; Szinovacz & Davey, 2008). We know relatively little about how adult children exchange routine assistance with their own parents and parents-in-law and whether there are variations in the amount of support given depending on children's and parents' or in-laws' characteristics (E. Lee et al., 2003; Shuey & Hardy, 2003). Moreover, support that middle-aged adults receive from both parents and parents-in-law has been ignored.

Korea provides a particularly important cultural setting to examine support exchanges involving both parents and parents-in-law. Asian countries (e.g., China, Japan, and Korea) traditionally have a patrilineal family system; that is, sons are expected to provide primary support for their older parents (often via their wife's provision of instrumental support to in-laws), whereas married daughters tend to provide only supplementary support for their own parents through emotional connections (Feldman, Tuljapurkar, Li, Jin, & Li, 2007; Lin et al., 2003). Thus, because daughters-in-law are more important sources of practical assistance and care for their elderly parents-in-law than daughters, studies on Asian families have paid considerable attention to in-law relationships (Y.-B. Lee, 2011; Cong & Silverstein, 2008).

However, with demographic and economic changes, many Asian countries have undergone transformations in the traditional patterns of family structures and norms regarding gendered patterns in support given to older parents (Zhan & Montgomery, 2003; Zhang, 2009). For example, a study in urban areas of China showed that married daughters provided more financial support to their own parents than married sons did. This significant gender difference was explained by daughters' increased education and income (Xie & Zhu, 2009). A study in Korea found that married adults did not reside closer to the husband's parents on average; rather, married adults lived a similar distance from the husband's and wife's parents (Han & Yoon, 2004). These findings suggest that the nature of intergenerational exchanges based on the patrilineal tradition may not be evident in Korea today. Yet few empirical investigations have taken into account exchanges with parents and parents-in-law simultaneously in Korean society. Korea is among the fastest growing economic powers in East Asia today (Chang & Song, 2010; Park, Phua, McNally, & Sun, 2005), and it has the highest rate of college attendance in the world (Korean Education Development Institute, 2010). As such, marital couples' exchanges with the older generation may be in flux because of recent educational and economic growth.

It is also important to consider support provided and received. Many studies have examined help and support given to or received from parents and parents-in-law. By focusing solely on one direction of exchanges, researchers have obtained a limited view of all the exchanges within the family and ignored the role that reciprocity may play in these exchanges (Akiyama, Antonucci, & Campbell, 1997; Silverstein, Conroy, Wang, Giarrusso, & Bengtson, 2002). …

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