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Liu, Jieyu (2024) 'Ageing and familial support: a three-generation portrait from urban China.' Ageing and Society, 44 (5). pp. 1204-1230.

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Research on ageing in China has been preoccupied with the unsolved question of whether traditional filial piety is eroded or sustained by societal modernisation. This article engages with the ongoing debate on modernisation and family change, but seeks to go beyond the prevailing dichotomous conclusion. Rather than focusing on one intergenerational relationship between ageing parents and their adult children – a common formula in the existing literature – this article draws upon 120 life-history interviews, involving both genders and three generations in three cities, and examines how old-age support practices have shifted across three generations, as well as between sons and daughters across time. The findings indicate that while there has been a decline in everyday financial and instrumental support by adult children for their parents across all three generations, crisis-induced intergenerational solidarity has remained intact. As the market economy has matured, differences in ageing experience have widened between working-class and affluent families. The article also reveals that care for bilateral parents has characterised the behaviour of the three urban generations. The complex shifts and continuities are the outcome of a combination of state policies, evolving filial norms, gender and demographic forces, as well as reflecting the broader structural consequences of China's shift to a market economy. By systematically comparing old-age practices by generation and gender in both Mao and post-Mao eras, the article makes a major empirical contribution to the study of ageing in urban China. From a theoretical perspective, it contributes to the global debate on modernisation and ageing by emphasising the uneven processes in which social change interacts with family life within a single country, when viewed through generational and gender prisms. In so doing, it highlights the ways in which old-age support trajectories are firmly grounded in local history and cultural, economic and demographic forces.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: life-history research, gender, generation, familial support, ageing, urban China
SOAS Departments & Centres: Regional Centres and Institutes > SOAS China Institute
ISSN: 0144686X
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2022 13:08
Funders: European Union

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