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Rural parents with urban children: Social and economic implications of migration for the rural elderly in Thailand

Publication Abstract

Knodel, John E., and Chanpen Saengtienchai. 2007. "Rural parents with urban children: Social and economic implications of migration for the rural elderly in Thailand." Population, Space and Place, 13(3): 193-210.

The present study explores the social and economic consequences of the migration of adult children to urban areas for rural parents in Thailand. Attention is given to the circumstances under which such migration takes place, including the role parents play in the process and the extent to which the implications of migration for the parents are taken into consideration. The analysis relies primarily on open-ended interviews conducted in 2004 with older age parents with migrant children in four purposely selected rural communities that were studied ten years earlier. Our findings suggest that migration of children to urban areas contributes positively to the material well-being of their elderly parents who remain in rural areas. 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 ten 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 post-industrial societies but rarely applied to the situation of elderly parents in developing country settings.

10.1002/psp.436

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