Family Care for Rural Elderly in the Midst of Rapid Social Change: The Case of Thailand
Extensive quantitative evidence from censuses, surveys, and intensive community studies reveals that the large majority of Thai elderly parents coreside with at least one child. This critical feature of the family care system has remained unchanged during the decade of the 1980s despite rapid social and economic change, including substantial out-migration of young adults from rural villages to the cities. Normative obligations for children to care for and support their elderly parents are deeply ingrained in Thai culture. The prevailing stem family system, however, means that only one child needs to remain with the parents to provide care in old age. Thus it is possible for many adult children to leave their rural parental homes at the same time that coresidence in rural villages persists. Migration decisions, among siblings are unlikely to be made independent of their implications for their parents need for care and support when elderly. These findings call into question global assumptions about economic and social change undermining the well-being of elderly in third world countries.