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Death of a child and parental wellbeing in old age: Evidence from Taiwan

  • Lee, Chioun
  • Glei, Dana A.
  • Weinstein, Maxine
  • Goldman, Noreen
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    The death of a child is one of the most traumatic events that a parent can experience. The psychological and physical consequences of bereavement are well established, and the consequences are more severe for mothers than fathers. However, little is known about how the death of an adult child affects parental wellbeing in old age or how the deceased child's sex may moderate the association. We use data from the Taiwanese Longitudinal Study of Aging (TLSA) to investigate how the death of a son or a daughter differentially affects the wellbeing of older parents, measured by depressive symptoms and self-rated health. We find that for mothers, a son's death is associated with an increase in depressive symptoms and a decline in self-rated health, but fathers' health is not adversely affected by a son's death. There is little evidence that a daughter's death has a negative effect on either maternal or paternal wellbeing. We situate these findings within their social and cultural contexts and discuss social policies that would reduce gender and health inequality.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 101 (2014)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 166-173

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:101:y:2014:i:c:p:166-173
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    1. Das Gupta, Monica & Jiang Zhenghua & Li Bohua & Xie Zhenming & Woojin Chung & Bae Hwa-Ok, 2002. "Why is son preference so persistent in East and South Asia? a cross-country study of China, India, and the Republic of Korea," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2942, The World Bank.
    2. Chu, C. Y. Cyrus & Yu, Ruoh-Rong, 2009. "Understanding Chinese Families: A Comparative Study of Taiwan and Southeast China," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199578092, March.
    3. Shelly Lundberg, 2005. "Sons, Daughters, and Parental Behaviour," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(3), pages 340-356, Autumn.
    4. Espinosa, Javier & Evans, William N., 2013. "Maternal bereavement: The heightened mortality of mothers after the death of a child," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 371-381.
    5. Najman, Jake M. & Vance, John C. & Boyle, Fran & Embleton, Gary & Foster, Bill & Thearle, John, 1993. "The impact of a child death on marital adjustment," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 37(8), pages 1005-1010, October.
    6. Tin-chi Lin, 2009. "The decline of son preference and rise of gender indifference in Taiwan since 1990," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 20(16), pages 377-402, April.
    7. Woojin Chung & Monica Das Gupta, 2007. "The Decline of Son Preference in South Korea: The Roles of Development and Public Policy," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 33(4), pages 757-783.
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