Intergenerational relationships promote aging immigrants' health, lower caregivers' stress

September 09, 2019

Filial piety - the traditional value of caring for one's elders - is central to the Chinese concept of family and has long shaped intergenerational relationships, daily life, and well-being, for older Chinese adults. The intersection of Eastern values and Western norms, however, can alter cultural beliefs across generations and negatively impact aging Chinese immigrants' physical and mental health and the caregiving burdens faced by their children, according to two new Rutgers studies.

The studies, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, examine how adapting to Western culture affects Chinese-American immigrant families' filial values and the effect on intergenerational relationships.

The first study explored the role of intergenerational support on the health and well-being of a cohort of roughly 2,700 Chinese immigrants, aged 60 and older, with offspring. The data, taken from the Population Study of Chinese Elderly in Chicago, or PINE, the most extensive epidemiological cohort study of Chinese American older adults, indicated positive associations between participants' feeling of closeness with their children and self-reported health status and quality of life.

"For the aging Chinese, the intergenerational connection is inherently the key for many to age well," said Daniel Lai, the study's lead researcher and Chair Professor of Social Work and Gerontology in The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. "Promoting the use of interventions that involve an intergenerational component is the right direction for building health capacity of the aging Chinese Americans."

The second study measured the sense of filial obligation relative to caregiving burdens among 393 PINE Study participants' adult children, who were their parents' primary caregiver. The research, drawn from the Filial Piety Study - a study of the PINE Study participants' adult children - found children's sense of filial obligation towards their parents had a protective effect on their developmental, emotional, social, and physical caregiving burdens.

"It all comes down to expectations," said XinQi Dong, director of Rutgers University's Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research and the lead researcher of the PINE and PIETY studies. "Although parent-child relationships remain important, older Chinese immigrants often adjust their filial expectations and learn to value independence after migrating. These two factors - closeness with children and the sense of control associated with increased independence - positively impact aging Chinese Americans' self-rated health and well-being.

"Conversely," Dong continued, "the adjustment to Western culture among the children of older Chinese immigrants' can affect their sense of filial obligations and, subsequently, their caregiving burdens."

Whether the effect is positive or negative depends on participants' acculturation levels and type of burden, according to May Guo, an associate professor at the University of Iowa, School of Social Work.

"For immigrant children with lower levels of acculturation, the protective effect of filial piety on their subjective burdens such as developmental and social burden is more salient," she said.

"However, among immigrant children with higher levels of acculturation, holding a strong sense of filial piety was actually associated with more objective burdens relating to time and physical burden "

Dong said both studies offer valuable practical and theoretical insight for healthcare professionals, psychosocial program administrators, and community leaders.

"To adequately and effectively treat older Chinese immigrants, healthcare professionals must be sensitive to the significance of emotional ties in this population," he said. "Providers should work to promote feelings of cohesion and intergenerational closeness among families while considering the importance of maintaining the feeling of control for aging Chinese Americans.

"Healthcare professionals should also be aware of the protective effect a sense of filial obligation has on the Chinese immigrant caregiving experience," Dong said. "Programs focused on celebrating the cultural heritage of immigrants and promoting the sense of filial obligation toward parental care can help improve the health of not only older Chinese Americans but also the well-being of their caregivers. Additional interventions could include helping caregivers find appropriate ways to balance traditional and new social norms."
About Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research

Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research advances health and well-being through meaningful, rigorous and impactful research in the critical areas of behavioral health, health services, health disparities, health policy, health economics, pharmacoepidemiology, and aging research.

Since its 1985 founding, the Institute has become nationally renowned for interdisciplinary and translational research. The Institute's 57,000 square foot facilities are home to six members elected to the National Academy of Medicine and 150 members representing over 30 schools, institutes, and units with adjunct members from 29 national and international universities.

Rutgers University

Related Mental Health Articles from Brightsurf:

Mental health strained by disaster
A new study found that suicide rates increase during all types of disasters -- including severe storms, floods, hurricanes and ice storms -- with the largest overall increase occurring two years after a disaster.

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

World Mental Health Day -- CACTUS releases report of largest researcher mental health survey
On the occasion of 'World Mental Health Day' 2020, CACTUS, a global scientific communications company, has released a global survey on mental health, wellbeing and fulfilment in academia.

Mental illness, mental health care use among police officers
A survey study of Texas police officers examines how common mental illness and mental health care use are in a large urban department.

COVID-19 outbreak and mental health
The use of online platforms to guide effective consumption of information, facilitate social support and continue mental health care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic is discussed in this Viewpoint.

COVID-19 may have consequences for mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be adversely affecting mental health among hospitalised patients, the healthcare professionals treating them and the general population.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental ill health 'substantial health concern' among police, finds international study
Mental health issues among police officers are a 'substantial health concern,' with around 1 in 4 potentially drinking at hazardous levels and around 1 in 7 meeting the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder and depression, finds a pooled data analysis of the available international evidence, published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Examining health insurance nondiscrimination policies with mental health among gender minority individuals
A large private health insurance database was used to examine the association between between health insurance nondiscrimination policies and mental health outcomes for gender minority individuals.

Mental health care for adolescents
Researchers examined changes over time in the kinds of mental health problems for which adolescents in the United States received care and where they got that care in this survey study with findings that should be interpreted within the context of several limitations including self-reported information.

Read More: Mental Health News and Mental Health Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to