In the transitional society of contemporary China, the patriarchal and patrilineal family institution has been declining and experienced challenges from the matrilineal side of the family. Using semi-structured interviews with 21 adult Chinese women in the Yangtze Delta area, this study asks questions regarding how Chinese women provide eldercare to both parents and parents-in-law in their daily life. Our findings show that parents and their adult children are dependent on each other, forming an intimate symbiosis in their life. Second, this intergenerational intimacy is an entanglement among money, affection and practices. Third, with the weakening of patriarchal norms and strengthening of matrilineal practices, a new bilateral and multi-nucleate family mode is emerging. Forth, while the new gender norms are forming, patriarchal tradition is rewritten and even strengthened to a degree. Further enriching the theory of Mosaic Familism, this study describes how tradition and modernity interweave in the process of China’s family reinstitutionalization from the patriarchal, patrilineal institution to a new bilateral family mode featured by the intergenerational intimacy.
Yingchun Ji is the Eastern Scholar Professor in the School of Sociology and Political Science at Shanghai University. Dr. Ji obtained her Ph.D. in the sociology department at UNC-Chapel Hill. She has served as Guest Editor for Journal of Marriage and Family, Chinese Sociological Review and China Review in recent years. Her research interests include family sociology, gender studies, low fertility, and modernity in China as well as East Asia. In addition to empirical studies, Dr. Ji has dedicated herself to developing localized theories in the following areas: how to understand changing gender dynamics in China’s socialist-to-market-economy transition; how to understand the changing marriage and family institutions in post-reform China; and how to understand low-fertility in present China as well as East Asia. In the past five years, Dr. Ji has been developing a theory called Mosaic Familism to understand reinstitutionalization of contemporary Chinese family.
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