Grandparents Caring for Grandchildren in China and Korea: Findings From CHARLS and KLoSA

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Abstract

Objectives.

To provide an overview of the prevalence and profiles of grandparents providing childcare to grandchildren in 2 East Asian countries, China and South Korea, characterized by similar demographic developments and a shared cultural background but having very different contemporary institutional and socioeconomic circumstances.

Method.

We apply logistic models to analyze pilot data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) and data from the Korean Longitudinal Study of Aging (KLoSA; Wave 2). Our analytic sample comprises 772 Chinese respondents and 4,958 Korean respondents aged 45–79.

Results.

The proportions of grandparents providing childcare to grandchildren differ considerably between China (58%) and South Korea (6%). Still, the determinants of grandparents’ involvement in childcare (e.g., age, geographic proximity) are fairly similar in both countries. However, financial support from adult children to grandparents is found to be significant in China only, whereas Korean grandparents exhibit a greater propensity to care for their (employed) daughters’ children than for their sons’ children.

Discussion.

Our analysis suggests that in South Korea, patrilineal considerations may begin to lose some of their importance in shaping downward functional solidarity between generations and that instead (grand-)children’s actual needs, particularly those related to maternal employment, receive more attention. We find no such evidence in our Chinese sample.

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