Grandfathers pp 125-144 | Cite as

What Do Grandfathers Value? Understanding Grandfatherhood in Asia Through Chinese Grandfathers in Singapore

  • Leng Leng ThangEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life book series (PSFL)


This chapter examines grandfathers’ involvement with their grandchildren in Asia through the perceived roles and functions of grandfathers, taking into particular consideration cultural continuity, value transmission, and its impact on both the meaning-making and practices of grandfatherhood. Through primarily an analysis of thirty letters from Chinese grandfathers in Singapore to their grandchildren, three broad themes have emerged for discussion: heritage, value transmission, and provision of care and support. These themes, when juxtaposed with masculinity, education, and socio-historical circumstances unique to Singapore Chinese, reveal the saliency of generativity in giving meaning to intergenerational connection for Chinese grandfathers in contemporary Singapore.


Confucian values Generativity Chinese 


  1. Barnett, M., Scaramella, L., Neppl, T., Ontai, L., & Conger, R. (2010). Intergenerational relationship quality, gender and grandparent involvement. Family Relations, 59, 28–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chen, F., Liu, G., & Mair, C. A. (2011). Intergenerational ties in context: Grandparents caring for grandchildren in China. Social Forces, 90(2), 571–594.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. DOS (Department of Statistics) (2011). Census of Population 2010 Statistical Release 1: Demographic characteristics, Education, Language and Religion. Singapore: Department of Statistics.Google Scholar
  4. DOS (Department of Statistics) (2014). Latest Data. Accessible at (retrieved on May 3, 2015)
  5. Cunningham-Burley, S. (1984). We don't talk about it … Issues of gender and method in the portrayal of grandfatherhood. Sociology, 18(3), 325–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Elder, G. H. (1998). The life course as developmental theory. Child Development, 69(1), 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  8. Erikson, E. H. (1982). The life cycle completed. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  9. Göransson, K. (2009). The binding tie: Chinese intergenerational relations in modern Singapore. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  10. Gutmann, D. L. (1985). Deculturation and the American grandparent. In V. L. Bengtson & J. F. Robertson (Eds.), Grandparenthood. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  11. Harper, S. (2005). Grandparenthood. In V. L. Bengtson & J. F. Robertson (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of age and ageing (pp. 422–428). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kang, S. H., Tan, E. S., & Yap, M. T. (2013). National survey of senior citizens 2011 IPS Report. Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies, National University of Singapore.Google Scholar
  13. Kinnier, R. T., Kernes, J. L., & Dautheribes, T. M. (2000). A short list of universal moral values. Counseling and Values, 45(1), 4–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kornhaber, A. (1996). Contemporary grandparenting. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  15. Lou, V. W., & Chi, I. (2012). Grandparenting roles and functions. In K. K. Mehta & L. L. Thang (Eds.), Experiencing grandparenthood (pp. 47–59). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mann, R. (2007). Out of the shadows? Grandfatherhood, age and masculinities. Journal of Aging Studies, 21(4), 281–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mann, R., & Leeson, G. (2010). Grandfathers in contemporary families in Britain: Evidence from qualitative research. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, 8(3), 234–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. McAdams, D. P. (2001). Generativity in midlife. In M. E. Lachman (Ed.), Handbook of midlife development (pp. 395–343). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  19. McAdams, D. P., & de St Aubin, E. (1992). A theory of generativity and its assessment through self-report, behavioral acts, and narrative themes in autobiography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62, 1003–1015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mehta, K.K. & Thang, L.L. eds (2012). Experiencing Grandparenthood: An Asian Perspective. Netherlands: Springer.Google Scholar
  21. National Library Board (NLB) (2008a). Letters from grandma and grandpa. Singapore: Panpac Education.Google Scholar
  22. National Library Board (NLB) (2008b). Gei suner de xin (Letters to grandchildren). Singapore: Panpac Education.Google Scholar
  23. Phua, V. C., & Loh, J. (2008). Filial piety and intergenerational co-residence: The case of Chinese Singaporeans. Asian Journal of Social Science, 36(3), 659–679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Tan, C. (2006). Change and continuity: Chinese language policy in Singapore. Language Policy, 5(1), 41–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Teo, P., Mehta, K., Thang, L. L., & Chan, A. (2006). Ageing in Singapore: Service needs and the state. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Thang, L. L. (2012). Meanings of being a grandparent. In K. K. Mehta & L. L. Thang (Eds.), Experiencing grandparenthood (pp. 61–75). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Thang, L.L. and Someya, Y. (2015). Are daughters willing to support their aging parents? Singapore-Japan comparison. In Y. Someya (Ed.), Changing attitudes of supporting elder parents in Asia: Generational comparison on female care responsibilities (pp. 12–30). Women’s Studies Research Report 36. Tokyo: Tokyo Women’s University Women’s Studies Research Institute.Google Scholar
  28. Thang, L. L., Mehta, K., Usui, T., & Tsuruwaka, M. (2011). Being a good grandparent: Roles and expectations in intergenerational relationships in Japan and Singapore. Marriage & Family Review, 47(8), 548–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Yap, M.T. and Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports (2010). State of the Elderly in Singapore: 2008–2009. Singapore: Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Japanese StudiesNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore

Personalised recommendations