Migration, Ageing, and Being Grandma

By: Jingjing Zhang  

Migration and ageing are intrinsically related. In China, a dramatic surge of migrants (both international and internal) after the Reform and Opening-up has changed the traditional perceptions of family culture, as well as the scenarios of intergenerational interactions. While left-behind children and their grandparents have drawn considerable research interests, insufficient studies have been carried out on the grandparents, particularly grandmothers, who follow their adult children’s migration to a new country or city to provide family support. This paper draws on data from interviews with two groups of Chinese grandmothers, one is international migrants who live in Auckland, New Zealand, and the other is internal migrants who live in two big cities (Zhengzhou and Nanjing) in China.Taking a neo-familism perspective, this paper explores how the grandmothers use their own migration as a strategy to help their adult children out of the disadvantages in the host society, and how they negotiate their identity and status within and outside the migrant family in regards to the intersection of gender, age, and migration. It is found that the two groups of grandmothers share many similarities in their post-migration experiences though migrant grandmothers in New Zealand tend to be more proactive balancing the younger generations’ benefits and their own wellbeing. Conflicts are manifest in public and policy discourses in China usually concerning encouraging childbirth, meeting childcare needs, advocating filial piety, and supporting old family members.

Social and Cultural Perspectives on Aging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Jingjing Zhang

Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Southeast University, China