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Rural Parents with Urban Children: Social and Economic Implications of Migration on the Rural Elderly in Thailand

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionKnodel, John E., and Chanpen Saengtienchai. 2005. "Rural Parents with Urban Children: Social and Economic Implications of Migration on the Rural Elderly in Thailand." PSC Research Report No. 05-574. April 2005.

The goal of the present study is to explore the circumstances in Thailand under which the migration of rural adult children to urban areas takes place, with attention to how parents and their situation influence these decisions, and the consequences for the social and economic well-being of parents who remain behind in the rural areas after the children leave. The analysis relies primarily on 27 open ended interviews conducted in 2004 with older age parents with migrant children from four purposively selected rural communities that were studied 10 years earlier. Our findings suggest that for many, probably most rural Thai elderly parents, the migration of children to urban areas contributes positively to their material well-being. Negative impacts of migration on social support, defined in terms of maintaining contact and visits, have been attenuated by the advent of technological changes in communication and also by improvements in transportation. Phone contact, especially through mobile phones, is now pervasive in sharp contrast to the situation 10 years earlier when it was extremely rare. Much of the change in Thailand in terms of the relationships between rural parents and their geographically dispersed adult children is quite consistent with the concept of the ‘modified extended family’, a perspective that has become common in discussions regarding elderly parents in industrial and postindustrial societies but rarely is applied to the situation of elderly parents in developing country settings.

Country of focus: Thailand.

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