The impact of son or daughter care on Chinese older adults’ mental health – lessons for the future of care in China

Parental care in China is traditionally provided by sons. In recent decades – partly due to the One-Child Policy but also economic development and urbanisation – significant changes have occurred with parents receiving more care from daughters. Our study compares the mental wellbeing of parents who receive eldercare from daughters and sons in China, analysing the harmonised 2013, 2015 and 2018 waves of CHARLS with random-effects logistic estimates. Mental wellbeing is measured with the 10-item Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression (CES-D-10). We find that older parents have better mental health if their primary carers are sons compared with daughters and others. This difference mainly exists among rural areas, women, and parents with limited resources. The One-Child Policy was more effective in urban areas, reducing both the availability of sons and cultural son preference. Higher levels of education received by girls in urban settings increase their employability and thus their ability to materially care for their parents. However, traditional norms and gender differences in socioeconomic statuses still persist in rural areas, leading to higher mental health from those cared for by sons, especially amongst those heavily dependent on their children — mothers or parents with less wealth. This has implications for care in rural areas as the one-child policy will impact upon gendered care for many decades to come.

Please note that this is a hybrid event with in-person speaker. You will need to register and indicate whether you wish to attend in person or online. Please register 12 hours before the seminar.

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About the Speaker

Dr Yanan Zhang, Research Fellow, Institute of Population Ageing, University of Oxford

Yanan joined the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing in November 2020 as a Research Fellow on the DAI@Oxford Programme with a quantitative focus. Her role involves the creation of an evidence base for positive interventions in support of population ageing.

She previously worked as a social care economist for the ESRC funded ‘Sustainable Care: Connecting People and Systems’. She conducts research on the costs of social care in terms of economy, health, and well-being, primarily through the analysis of large-scale longitudinal survey data, often presenting her results internationally, directly contributing to key policy debates.

She obtained her doctorate at the Department of Economics at the University of Birmingham in 2018, under the supervision of Professors Alessandra Guariglia and David Dickinson. Her thesis explored the association between savings and ageing populations, the reallocation of resources in middle and older aged adults, and the consumption, efficiency and utilisation of public health insurance schemes.


This event is part of Michaelmas 2021 Seminar Series – Future Perspectives on Ageing