Separated kin: location of multiple children and mental health trajectories of older parents in rural China
Objective: This study examines the longitudinal association between the location of multiple children and depressive symptoms of older parents in rural China, where massive rural-to-urban migration has profoundly altered the family life of the aging population. Methods: Using seven waves of panel data from the Longitudinal Study of Older Adults in Anhui Province (2001-2018, N = 8,253) and multilevel growth curve models, this study compares mental health trajectories of old parents across different compositions of local and migrant children over an 18-year time period. Results: The results show that older parents with a greater share of adult children who had migrated away not only scored worse mental health on average, but also experienced a more rapid increase in depressive symptoms across ages, after accounting for other covariates. Further, older adults who had their most children migrated away for a longer period of time suffered from the steeper rate of increase in depressive symptoms as they got older. Conclusions: We suggest that it is not the geographic locality of a single child but the location of multiple children that matters for parental mental health in later life.