Lineage difference in grandmothers’ childcare help and mothers’ parenting stress in urban China

Cong Zhang, Sungwon Kim, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Vanessa L. Fong, Xinyin Chen, Niobe Way, Zuhong Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Grandparents are an important source of social support for parents’ adjustment to parenthood. In this study, we examine how urban Chinese mothers experience grandmother support in relation to their parenting stress, based on the interview and survey data of a sample of 352 first-time mothers with 14-month-old children living in Nanjing, China. We find a lineage-based difference in mothers’ experiences of maternal versus paternal grandmothers’ help with childcare in the context of parenting stress. Maternal grandmothers’ support tends to alleviate mother’s parenting stress, while paternal grandmothers co-living with mothers is positively associated with maternal stress. Differences in caregiving motivations and conflict resolution in maternal versus paternal grandmother care (greater consideration of mother’s needs and more effective communication with mother in maternal grandmother care) may contribute to mothers’ differential experiences of parenting stress. Our study suggests that mothers’ subjective experiences of grandmother support (beyond the mere availability of the support) play an important role in shaping maternal stress and highlights the changing significance of family lineage in shaping intergenerational care support and its implication for co-parenting experiences of parents and grandparents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2025-2045
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Family Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2023


  • China
  • childcare support
  • grandparents
  • lineage
  • parenting stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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