Old age support to parents and parents-in-law in contemporary China
China's aging population is increasing at an unprecedented rate and along with increasing life expectancies, need for formal and informal sources of old age support will likely grow as well. Chinese traditional family-based old age support has been practiced for centuries. According to this tradition, in a married couple, support is focused primarily on the husband's parents. However, given the changing aging demographics, economic and social policies (including one-child policy) in contemporary China, families may have greater demands in daily life and have fewer resources to provide to either set of aging parents. Gerontological researchers and policy-makers have previously examined influential factors in the provision of old age support to parents, however, the family's efforts to provide old age support to parents-in-law specifically and to both parents and parents-in-law simultaneously has received little attention. This study examined these aspects of old age support through secondary analysis using the e 2006 panel data of the China General Social Survey. Among the 1486 eligible respondents, provision of support to parents-in-law was widespread and similarities were found between support provided to parents and parents-in-law. Factors that influenced whether support was provided included reciprocity/exchange of support and parents/parents-in-law's needs (health status). Both men and women were seen to support both sets of parents, regardless of their blood relationship with the care recipients. Adult children did not tend to favor either set of parents in terms of financial or instrumental support provision. Also, only-children provided comparable support to parents and parents-in-law as families with multiple siblings. Implications from this study for social work education, practice and policy advocacy are based on the strengths and challenges that will continue to influence old age support among Chinese families. Traditional family-based old age support was seen as a continuing strength, and changes may be occurring in strict adherence to prescribed gender roles in the provision of support to parents and parents-in-law. Building on these strengths, social workers can help families plan for future care and advocate with local and national policy-makers for services that can further support the care of older parents within the family system.