Primary family caregivers of the elderly in Shanghai, China: Kin relationship, family support network, elderly need for care and caregiver burden

Juxin Di, Fordham University


Using data from the 1989 survey of noninstitutionalized impaired elderly and their caregivers in Shanghai, the present study describes and analyzes caregiving burden among the coresiding primary family caregivers of impaired elderly in the first major metropolitan area of China facing aging issues. Our results indicate that 87 percent of the primary caregivers of impaired elderly are coresiding family members. The primary caregiver for married impaired elderly is their spouse. The continued importance of son preference is evident among adult child caregivers since married sons combined with daughter-in-law occur almost twice as frequently as married daughters. Other relatives infrequently take the role of primary caregiver. This study utilizes a conceptual framework that identifies characteristics of the primary family caregiver, caregiving involvement, elderly need for care, and the familial support network as determinants of family caregiver burden. Indicators of caregiver burden include personal expressions of subjective feelings of fatigue and negative impacts on loss of personal time as well as the need for formal service support. Among coresiding caregivers, the wife, married daughter and husband express greater personal burden. This dimension of caregiver burden is mainly related to the greater caregiving involvement of these kin members and to the greater need of elderly they care for. There is, however, only a weak correlation between these personal perceptions of caregiver burden and expressed need for formal service support. Data on caregiver's need for formal services show a generational difference with adult child caregivers expressing greater need than spouse caregivers. The major factors affecting formal service need are caregiver's education, current residence and familial support. The evidence for education is consistent with changes in traditional cultural norms that lead to greater acceptability of community services as a supplement to traditional familial obligations. Rural suburb residence shows greater need for formal services which may reflect the lesser availability of such support outside the central city. Receiving familial help in the household has a buffering effect on service need, but receiving familial help from outside the household increases service need. Policy implications of the analysis for social interventions are discussed.

Subject Area

Demographics|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|History|Gerontology

Recommended Citation

Di, Juxin, "Primary family caregivers of the elderly in Shanghai, China: Kin relationship, family support network, elderly need for care and caregiver burden" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9825867.