The goal of this research is to investigate the effects of social change on family functioning and its consequence for the physical and psychological health of elderly people living in Anhui Province, China. As it makes the transition to a free-market economy, China is undergoing rapid economic development and unprecedented rural-to-urban migration. Since a large majority of migrants are young working-age adults, there is fear that the elderly are being left to fend for themselves in rural areas a violation of the strong familial role (usually occupied by the son) in caring for older relatives in Chinese families. Accompanying economic change and geographic mobility is the weakening of filial piety long a cornerstone of Chinese society that mandated profound respect and responsibility for older citizens. These changes are of particular concern for the welfare of the aged, as China does not have universal social security or health care available for its older citizens. This project seeks to answer the question of whether economic, structural, and normative changes in China have put the elderly at-risk of psychological distress and physical impairment. The project will consist of a longitudinal study of 3,000 randomly selected elderly (60+) Chinese living in Anhui Province a largely rural province, but one that has experienced unprecedented out- migration from its rural areas. Surveys will be conducted at two time periods, 18 months apart, to identify how household and family structure, intergenerational transfers of social and economic support, and norms of filial piety among the elderly influence their psychological being (depression, affect balance, locus of control and morale) and physical well-being (functional health, self-assessed health, disease states). After the second wave of data is collected, longitudinal analyses will identify whether social and family deficits cause change in the well-being of the elderly. The longitudinal design of the research is crucial for understanding the dynamic process by which family support affects the quality of life of older people. This research brings together a scholar from the Andrus Gerontology Center, at the University of Southern California (with extensive experience studying intergenerational relationships among the elderly in the United States) and a scholar from the Population Research Institute of Anhui University (who has performed studies on population aging and family life in China). This investigation will capitalize on the historical contingency of rapid social and economic change in contemporary China, enhancing the Principle Investigator s funded research to study the effects of social changes on family functioning and well-being of older people in the United States. The speed with which economic change is occurring in China make it an excellent laboratory for capturing the effects of social change within a relatively small window of time and within an older population experiencing the erosion of filial piety and radical change in family structure and function.
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