Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 1–22 | Cite as

Externally-Resident Daughters, Social Capital, and Support for the Elderly in Rural Tibet

  • Geoff Childs
  • Melvyn C. Goldstein
  • Puchung Wangdui
Original Article


This paper focuses on assistance that externally-resident daughters provide for their aging parents in rural Tibet, China, to challenge the notion that rapid modernization invariably threatens family-based care systems for the elderly. The authors discuss social and economic changes associated with modernization that have created new opportunities for parents to send daughters out of their natal households in ways that can benefit them in old age. By investing in a daughter’s education so she can secure salaried employment, or by helping a daughter establish a small business so she can earn an independent livelihood, the authors demonstrate how some externally-resident daughters represent a novel form of social capital that parents can draw on for social support. Daughters with income and freedom from extended family obligations are now providing elderly parents with (1) leverage against co-resident children who do not treat them well, (2) temporary places of refuge from ill-treatment at home, (3) caretaking services and financial support when they require hospitalization, and (4) financial resources independent of their household which they can use to pursue age-appropriate activities like pilgrimage. The authors conclude that this new form of social capital vested in externallyresident daughters is having a positive impact on the lives of the elderly in rural Tibet.


Aging Modernization Gender Social capital Social networks Social support Tibet 



Fieldwork in rural Tibet was facilitated by an NSF-sponsored research grant (# 0527500) in collaboration with the Tibet Academy of Social Sciences in Lhasa. The authors would like to thank participants of the February 2010 Research on Contemporary Tibet conference held in Boulder, Colorado, in particular Charlene Makley, Carole McGranahan, and Emily Yeh, for providing constructive feedback on an earlier version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geoff Childs
    • 1
  • Melvyn C. Goldstein
    • 2
  • Puchung Wangdui
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  3. 3.Tibet Academy of Social SciencesLhasaChina

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