Gendered Impacts of Children and Living Arrangement on Social Network Support of Chinese Older Adults

Menghan Zhao , Renmin University of China
Fan Yang, Renmin University of China

Most extant literature on fertility history and social network support of older adults focuses on the elderly in advanced societies. Nevertheless, a limited number of studies explore how the culturally preferred family structure or living arrangement is related to older adults’ network support in developing societies. This study sketches the Chinese context, paying particular attention to the filial piety and son preferences, and develops hypotheses regarding the fertility history, living arrangement and older adults’ support from family and non-relative friend network. Specifically, we focus on the interplay of family structure, living arrangement and gender in older adults’ network resources. Using nationally representative data of adults aged 60 and over in mainland China, we find that childless older adults are most disadvantaged in terms of family network support. Despite the patrilineal tradition, daughters are also important sources of family network support. In terms of support from non-relative friend network, older men, but not older women, who have no sons are least likely to receive support from friend network. Further, coresidence with partner and sons is related to more friend network support for older men but not for older women. Nevertheless, older rural women also receive more friend network support if living with sons, implying urban-rural differences in the influence of living arrangement on older adults’ social network support.

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 Presented in Session 57. Social Networks and Social Support among Older People