Filial norms, altruism, and mutual exchange: Financial support to older parents in China

Melanie Sereny Brasher, University of Rhode Island


As a direct expression of filial piety, children, in particular sons, are expected to provide support to older parents in China. In the present study, I assess whether filial piety and other measures of altruism are associated with financial support from both adult sons and daughters to older parents, or whether measures from the corporate group and mutual exchange models of intergenerational support are more important predictors. Survey data from the 2002 wave of the Chinese Survey of Family Dynamics (CSFD) (N=3,768) was utilized. For both sons and daughters, agreement with filial piety values, parents’ education level and help with housework were associated with greater likelihood of economic support. For daughters, those with young children (under 18) were less likely to support parents. Among sons, those who received support from parents earlier in the life course (a wedding gift) were more likely to provide financial transfers.