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Chinese Sociological Review, 47(4): 343–366, 2015
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN 2162-0555 print / 2162-0563 online
DOI: 10.1080/21620555.2015.1062345
Childcare Needs and Household
Composition: Is Household Extension
a Way of Seeking Childcare Support?
Yung-Han Chang, Health Care Management Department,
University of Kang Ning, Taiwan
Abstract: Changes of household composition are usually a result of complicated interplay of multiple factors. Among many changes of household
composition over the life course, some household compositional changes may
be particularly associated with special needs, such as childcare. As childcare
is usually arranged informally in Taiwan, this study investigates whether
household extension could be a way of obtaining childcare support from relatives. Using data from the Taiwan Social Change Survey, this study aims to
reinvestigate the determinants of household composition from the perspective
of childcare arrangements. Research results show that after holding mothers’
employment status, demographic and household-context variables constant,
the presence of children under age 3 is still significantly associated with household composition. The finding supports the argument that people with young
children are more likely to co-reside with elderly parents or extended kin.
Although the causal relationship between having childcare needs and living
in stem and extended households could not be established, this study provides
empirical evidence of the association between childcare needs and household
composition.
Address correspondence to Yung-Han Chang, Health Care Management Department, University of Kang Ning, No. 188, Sec. 5, Anjhong Road, Tainan 709,
Taiwan. E-mail: [email protected]
Color versions of one or more of the figures in the article can be found online at
www.tandfonline.com/mcsa.
343
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The household is a dynamic social unit. It changes over time in relation to
both structural and individual status. Structurally, the changes in socioeconomic characteristics and cultural patterns may help determine household
composition. Individually, insight from family development theory (Rodgers
and White 1993) reminds us that a household’s structure changes as people
change their living arrangements when they reach different stages of life.
Among many changes of living arrangements at life stages, some
household changes are particularly associated with special needs, such as
childcare. In East Asian societies, many people had the experience of living
with their grandparents before entering kindergarten. This strategic living
arrangement is deemed as a way to resolve the dilemma of many working
mothers and dual-earner families. Nevertheless, however common this
temporary arrangement of coresidence may seem to be, it is not without
conflicts and negotiations. Changes of household composition are usually
a result of complicated interplay of multiple factors.
Determinants of Household Composition
Household changes could be analyzed in terms of size, number of family
members, or structure. Many previous studies have treated household compositional changes as an important element of emerging social issues, including elderly care (Chen 2005; Tseng, Chang, and Chen 2006; Chang and
Chang 2010), housing policies (Muller, Gnanasekaran, and Knapp 1999),
and female work participation (Lu 1997, 2006).
In the last half-century or so, the most influential theoretical arguments
on the household have been largely associated with economic resources
(Becker and Tomes 1986; Horrell 1994; Gronau 1977). In line with the
theory that household composition is the product of economic arrangements, scholars have argued that household composition has changed since
the means of production have changed (Kertzer 1991).
It is evident that the types of households today are very different from those
at the beginning of the twentieth century. One of the popular arguments in
favor of household change since twentieth century invokes “nuclearization.”
Scholars who support this idea (Goode 1982) contend that as society has
become industrialized and urbanized, household size has become smaller.
The idea––“nuclearization”––originated among structural-functionalists. Parsons, as the main figure in functionalism, argued in The Social Structure of the
Family, that the isolation of the conjugal family (i.e., nuclear family) makes
high mobility for workers and work activities possible (Parsons 1949, 263).
Family history studies (Laslett and Wall 1975), anthropological
(Malinowski 1930; Murdock 1949) and demographic studies (Burch 1970)
also offer their explanations of household change (Yang, Li, and Chen
2008). According to Laslett and Wall’s historical study, small families have
existed in Europe since the sixteenth century. Anthropological studies
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(Malinowski 1930; Murdock 1949) support their argument. Burch (1970)
argues that small families are more common in a society than big families.
Although these arguments are taken from different social contexts and timeframes, they have challenged people’s preconceived idea that small or
nuclear families follow industrialization.
In addition to the arguments above, van de Kaa proposed the Second
Demographic Transition theory (SDT-theory) for studying family change
(van de Kaa 1987), which argues that family values have been transformed from
the earlier bourgeois family model to today’s individualistic family model
(Yang, Li, and Chen 2008). What SDT suggests is that today’s individualistic
values make families open to a wider range of configurations: living alone, living
apart together, living with friends, and sharing house with others (Levin 2004).
Unlike societies in the West, the society of Taiwan is rooted in Chinese
traditional family values. Generally, a Chinese family is traditionally
pictured as a big family. However, Goode found from a survey conducted
in 1949 that the average household size in various regions of China is between
4.1 and 6.9 persons (Goode 1982, 98). He suggested that an extended household is always ideal in most societies, but, due to economic pressure and high
mortality rates, such an ideal household type is hardly ever achieved.
After reviewing the changes of family structures in Taiwan from 1984 to
2005, Yang, Li, and Chen (2008) suggest that the factors which may affect
household changes are the mortality rate, fertility rate, and propensity for
coresidence (Yang, Li, and Chen 2008, 4). Chen (2004) observed the intergenerational coresidence in rural China and found that cultural norm played
a crucial role in living arrangements. Several previous studies in Taiwan
(Yang, Li, and Chen 2008; Chien and Yi 2001) also found that household
compositional change was associated with people’s attitudinal shift, particularly the propensity to coreside with their elderly parents. Theoretically,
the higher the propensity for coresidence between elderly parents and
the young adult children, the greater the likelihood that people will live in
a stem household (Yang, Li, and Chen 2008, 6). In reality, the propensity
for coresidence is constrained and influenced by environmental or objective
conditions. For instance, if it costs less to live with children, elderly parents
who have few financial resources are likely to choose this option, even when
they do not prefer this living arrangement. Similarly, newly married children
are likely to live with parents to reduce their expenses.
Furthermore, housing capacity, differences between rural and urban
locations and the life stage are also important factors associated with
household composition (Yang and Zeng 2000; Chang 2010; Chang 2014).
In terms of housing capacity, it is argued that people’s decisions on household
composition are partially constrained by the options open to them.
A previous study comparing the trends in Tianjin and Shanghai (Logan,
Bian, and Bian 1998) showed that the traditional household size and
intergenerational coresidence persisted when state policies reduce housing
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opportunities. Furthermore, the increasing number of houses or apartments
that could only accommodate small households may also lead to the increase
in nuclear or one-person households (Zeng and Wang 2003; Ren and
Treiman 2015).
Apart from the arguments above, household composition is sometimes
involved with economic strategy when there are young children in the
household. According to previous studies (Yu 2001; Chen 2005; Sun
2008), some households with young children in Taiwan tend to make
a strategic decision to live with parents in order to have help with childcare.
Due to the lack of available and reliable public childcare resources, having
relatives as childcare givers has been found to be a common practice in
Taiwan (Sun 2008). This common form of informal childcare arrangements
distinguishes Taiwan from some East Asian societies with similar cultural
backgrounds (e.g., Japan and South Korea). Yu (2001) uses this type of
informal childcare arrangement to explain the intergenerational coresidence
of elderly parents and married children. Despite the possibility that married
couples could obtain childcare support if parents lived nearby, Yu argues
that the residential childcare support from elderly parents is one of the
exchange resources that derive from the mutual interdependence between
elderly parents and married children. The following section turns to reviewing
childcare arrangements and intergenerational relations in Taiwan.
Childcare Needs and Arrangement
As society changes, many previous studies in Taiwan show that with regard to
childcare arrangements, which are deemed as the responsibility of the family,
there is a conflict between seeking public resources and finding reliable private childcare providers (Wang 2011; Wang and Sun 2003). Although scholars
and parents have pledged to increase public spending on childcare, childcare
is still mainly shouldered by families due to the delayed development of public
childcare policy and the persisting gender roles. However, as the female labor
participation rate increases, childcare needs become a problem requiring
government intervention. According to Jao and Li (2012), the labor force
participation rate of mothers of pre-school aged children increased from 34
to 64 percent between 1983 and 2006. The increase is even greater than that
of the labor force participation rate of all women during the same period.
Based on the Women’s Marriage, Fertility and Employment Survey, in
terms of the childcare arrangement for children under age 3, the percentage
of childcare by women (ages 15–49) dropped from 76.96 percent in 1985 to
56.9 percent in 2011 whereas the proportion of childcare by grandparents
increased to 33.64 percent in 2011 (Directorate General of Budget Accounting
and Statistics 2013).
Wang’s study (2011) on childcare policy in Taiwan (2011) indicated that
percentages of childcare provided by parents and by public childcare system
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were both declining, whereas the percentage of childcare by babysitters, relatives, and private childcare providers were increasing.
However, given the above changes, 45.5 percent of Taiwanese people still
think that mothers who stay at home and care for their children is the best
childcare arrangement (Ministry of the Interior 2010). This social expectation is reflected in the reality that 95 percent of children under the age
of 3 are cared for at home. Most of them are cared for by parents or unpaid
relatives (Wang 2011).
Apart from social expectations, the financial burden of hiring private
childcare providers 0–also leads to high percentage of care by family.
According to the 2013 Women’s Marriage, Fertility and Employment
Survey, the average monthly cost of private childcare for children under
age 3 is US$515 and the average monthly income of women is US$1,083.
After understanding that private childcare costs more than half of one’s
income, many women would rather leave the labor market and care for their
children at home.
The conflict between family and work has been an old theme for married
women (Aryee 1992; Matsui, Ohsawa, and Onglatco 1995). Many married
women in Taiwan face crisis in combining family and career. For those
working women in a dilemma, the “socially approved characteristics of femininity (such as nurturing and submissiveness) may often come into conflict
with the requirements of a “masculine” managerial role (such as toughness
and assertiveness)” (Chou, Fosh, and Foster 2005, 253).
Although the above discussions seem to picture a zero sum relationship
between working and childbearing for women, the positive correlation
between the fertility rate and labor participation in North European countries suggests that women joining the labor market is not the real culprit,
but a poor balance between work and family (Wang 2011).
In terms of the influence of the working environment on working
mothers, previous studies suggested that self-employed women are more
likely to arrange time for childcare because they were given higher power
and flexibility to adjust their working hours and workplace (Tu 2003).
However, Tang (2011) indicates that part-time jobs or jobs with flexible
working hours are not common in Taiwan. With the constraints of rigid
work schedules, leaving the labor market to become full-time mothers
is an option left for many working mothers. Notwithstanding, Yu’s comparative study of Japan and Taiwan suggests that informal childcare
arrangements in Taiwan help women remain in the labor market with lower
labor force withdrawal rate than their Japanese counterparts.
According to Sun (2008), for women in Taiwan, it is not only convenient,
but also appropriate and safe to ask elderly parents to care for young children.
Her study, which compares the childcare practices in extended and nuclear
households, shows that extended households that contain seniors may
“mediate the relationship between women’s employment and their time spent
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on childcare” and “modify the degree to which husbands adjust their childcare
participation in [the] light of their wives’ employment” (Sun 2008, 215).
The interdependence between elderly parents and married children, which
is demonstrated by financial support or childcare support as described
above, has been an important social norm and is a common practice.
Scholars have developed several models to explain this intergenerational
relationship, including the altruism model, the exchange model, and the
insurance model (Silverstein et al. 2002). While the altruism model believes
in cooperation and contends that transfers between family members are
made to meet their needs, the exchange model and insurance model argue
that family members provide resources or support to each other in the
hope that of receiving help or support in return.
Previous studies found that intergenerational exchanges may vary
according to household types and elderly parents’ income. Lin (2007) in
her in-depth interviews showed that grandmothers with stable income are
less willing to care for grandchildren at home than their counterparts without financial independence. Chen and Lin’s (2011) research indicated those
who live with parents exchange more by financial support and household
chores than their counterparts who live with siblings or others. Moreover,
as society changes, intergenerational support also differs. In a traditional
Chinese family, it is common for married sons to stay at home with their
elderly parents and take care of them. Nonetheless, in the past ten to twenty
years, traditional ways seem to have gradually been replaced by a new
practice. Kung and Yi (2001) have reviewed the transformation of eldercare
arrangements from the Confucian conception of filial piety to the modernized form and have found that new forms of filial piety have emerged.
Monetary support or regular visits have gradually replaced coresidence.
A study of the intergenerational relations in urban China (Bian, Logan,
and Bian 1998) suggested that parents’ relationships with adult children
are not affected by non-coresidence. Children could fulfill their filial
obligation by paying regular visits or giving small gifts as a sign of respect
even when they do live with elderly parents.
The transformation of patriarchy traditional culture is another example.
In the 1970 s, parents with young children mostly seek childcare support
from paternal relatives. In 1999, it has become common to have maternal
relatives provide childcare support (Lin 2007).
Although coresidential living arrangements are only one way of intergenerational support exchanges, it is deemed as the most direct approach.
By coresidence, children may provide elderly care to elderly parents whereas
parents provide financial or childcare support to children (Thornton and
Lin 1994). This coresidential living arrangement may help the family smooth
consumption and overcome constraints. Observing the coresidence between
elderly parents and children in rural China, Chen (2004) argues that the
relationship between childcare and coresidential living arrangements may
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be closely related to household strategy. She suggests that living arrangements reflect family needs and that coresidence with elderly parents is not
a random choice. In other words, “family needs could have both a direct
and an indirect effect on the division of labor, with the latter being mediated
through decisions on living arrangements” (Chen 2004, 564). Her argument
suggests that coresidential living arrangements are a mechanism by which
family needs are satisfied and through which the intergenerational division
of labor is put on the map. The emergence of the “generation-skipping” household consisting of grandparents and grandchildren in Ren and Treiman’s
(2015) study is an example of the said mechanism. According to Ren and
Treiman (2015), due to work demands or housing issues, there is a growing
number of parents who could not care for their children and have their
children live with elderly parents. Childcare support from elderly parents is
thus introduced into the households through coresidential living arrangements.
Given the above discussions, the research question of this study is constructed based on the argument that the coresidential living arrangement
could be a way of obtaining childcare support. Although many studies have
discussed the current situations of childcare arrangements in Taiwan, the
relationship between childcare arrangement and household composition is
rarely examined.
In responding to the lack of research in this area, this study aims to investigate the associations between childcare needs and household composition.
To specify, this study asks the question would people with childcare needs be
more likely to live with their elderly parents or extended family members to
obtain childcare support?
Based on the above arguments, the research framework is constructed
in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Conceptual framework of the determinants of household
composition.
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350 CHINESE SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW
Figure 1 summarizes the aforementioned arguments and shows the factors
that are associated with household composition. According to the framework, the determinants of household composition include demographic
variables (i.e., sex, age, and area), childcare needs (i.e., presence of children
under age 3 and employment status of mothers), and household-context
variables (i.e., availability of kin, including elderly parents and siblings).
As this study aims to investigate the association between childcare needs
and household composition, the primary focus is on the effects of the
presence of young children. Moreover, given that women are still the primary
childcare providers for children under age 3, mothers’ employment status is
also included in the model. It is hypothesized that the presence of children
under age 3 has a positive relationship with people’s probability of living
in stem or extended households because people with young children may
seek childcare support by living with their elderly parents or other family
members. On the other hand, the presence of elderly parents or extended
family members may probably increase the likelihood of people having
young children as they are likely to obtain more childcare support from
extended family members.
The said childcare needs are expected to increase when mothers are
working. Mothers’ employment status is presumed to make a difference in
childcare needs. Although childcare needs are not represented by one single
variable and not directly measured in this study, it is expected that the
likelihood of people living in stem or extended households would increase
when mothers are working (i.e., employed or self-employed).
Demographic variables are also important determinants of household
composition according to the literature. It is presumed that men are more
likely than women to live in stem or extended households as they are usually
expected to be responsible for arranging for healthcare and living of elderly
parents. As for age, since people change their household composition at
different stages, it is expected that there be a significant relationship between
age and household composition. However, the relationship could be “curvilinear” rather than a linear effect, therefore age squared is also included
in the model. In terms of area, based on the argument of nuclearization,
people who live in a rural area are expected to be more likely to live in stem
or extended households than nuclear households, while their urbanized
counterparts are more likely to live in nuclear households due to different
housing costs in various regions.
In addition to demographic variables, as the research focuses on the
relationship between household composition and childcare needs, household-context variables are also taken into account. In this study, the
availability of family members is essential to the argument that people with
young children are more likely to live in stem or extended households.
Therefore, household-context variables specifically include the availability
of respondents’ parents, respondents’ brothers, and sisters. It is presumed
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that the number of elderly parents alive has a positive relationship with the
likelihood of people living in stem or extended households, since people with
parents around are more likely to seek childcare support by living with their
parents than those whose parents passed away. The number of brothers is
presumed to have a negative relationship with the likelihood of people living
in stem or extended households whereas the relationship of the number of
sisters and household composition is not clear. The aforementioned traditional Chinese family setting expects that a son would coreside with their
elderly parents and care for them. In practice, if there were more than one
son, as one of the sons takes the coresidence responsibility, other sons are
more likely to practice filial piety through financial support or regular visits.
Consequently, the number of brothers may have negative relationship with
people living in stem or extended households.
Data, Variables, and Methods
Data
Data analyzed in this paper were collected in the third cycle’s second year,
fourth cycle’s second year, and sixth cycle’s second year surveys of the
research project “Taiwan Social Change Survey.” The project was conducted by the Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, and sponsored by the
Ministry of Science and Technology, Republic of China. The data were collected through face-to-face interviews of registered non-institutional residents in Taiwan ages 18 or older. (Academia Sinica 2015). The
consistency of the datasets is an important advantage for comparisons overtime. As the survey topic varies each year in TSCS, this study adopts the
data from 1996, 2001, and 2011 for their suitability. To help the analysis
focus on the association between childcare needs and household composition, data of survey respondents from 18 to 50 years old are selected since
respondents of this age range are at the life stage of child rearing.
Dependent Variable
To examine the changes of household composition, household type is used
as the dependent variable. In the analysis, household type consists of two
categories: (1) nuclear; (2) stem and extended household, which were
generated from the four household types: (1) one-person (including households of people living with non-kin), (2) nuclear, (3) stem, and (4) extended.
One-person households are excluded from the analysis as they are not
related to the research focus in this study.
This classification of household is based on Yang, Li, and Chen’s (2008)
household types, which is based on the coresidence condition of each family
member reported in the TSCS data. In TSCS, there is no variable specifically
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indicating in which “household type” that respondents live, household types
have to be constructed based on the variables associated with living arrangements. Based on 42–50 variables in the TSCS, which ask whom you live with,
Yang et al.’s classification can catch most cases according to the relationships
between the respondents and other members in the same household. Table 1
shows the family relationships used in their classification. As we can see,
there are two types of kinship: lineal and collateral. And in each type, the
relationships are classified as elder, same, and junior generations.
In terms of theory, Yang et al.’s classification follows the family study
tradition with nuclear, stem, extended households as the core household
types. This is theoretically coherent with my research question, which
focuses on associations between childcare needs and household composition
by comparing the likelihood of people living in nuclear and stem/extended
households. Figure 2 summarizes the details of the four household types.
In the analysis, one-person households are excluded while stem and
extended households are recoded into one category.
One-person households include respondents who live alone or with nonrelatives. Nuclear households generally include respondents who live with
partners and children. However, single-parent households and households
of married couples without children are also categorized as nuclear household in the classification. Stem households include two generation households with married children or elderly parents and three generation
households with grandchildren or grandparents. Extended households
include two or more collateral partnered relatives.
More specifically, the definitions of each household type are as follows:
1. Nuclear: respondents at the age of marriage and childbirth who live
with only nuclear family members would be identified as living in the
“nuclear” household.
Table 1
Relationships of Family Members
Relationship
Members
Lineal
Elder1
Elder2
Same generation
Junior1
Junior2
Grandparents
Parents, parents in law
Spouses, partners
Children, children- in-law
Grandchildren
Collateral
Elder
Same generation
Junior
Uncle/aunt
Siblings, cousins
Nephew/niece
Other
Unspecified kin, friends, others
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Figure 2. Four major household types.
Note: Please see household composition classification schema from Yang, Li, and
Chen (2008).
2. Stem: stem households include two generation households with married
children or elderly parents and three generation households with
grandchildren or grandparents.
3. Extended: extended households include two or more collateral partnered
relatives.
Explanatory Variables
Explanatory variables include sex, age, age squared, area, presence of young
children under age 3, mothers’ employment status, number of available
parents, number of brothers, and number of sisters. As sex and age are
taken from the original data without recoding, the explanations of these
two variables are omitted in this section.
Area is generated based on survey respondents’ current residence. In the
original data of TSCS, the current residence is coded based on the administrative regions. Population size and population density of each region determines the classification of the region. A total of 358 regions are classified
into three categories: cities, towns, and rural area.
Household-context variables include the number of available parents, the
number of available brothers, and the number of available sisters. The three
variables are all constructed based on the household information reported by
the respondent. Respondents are asked to answer the questions whether
their parents are still alive and how many brothers or sisters they have. In
addition, the household information of respondents’ spouse is also provided.
The number of available parents is then generated based on the number of
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respondents and their spouses’ elderly parents who are still alive. Due to data
limits, proximity and health status of elderly parents are not accounted for.
The number of brothers and sisters are generated in the same way. Both
variables take respondents and their spouses’ brothers and sisters into
account as they are also potential childcare providers. Presence of children
under age 3 is constructed based on the information of the presence of children and the age of children. According to literature, childcare is specifically
deemed as the responsibility of mothers and family before children reach age
3 (Wang and Sun 2003; Wang 2011). Nevertheless, for comparisons, later in
the analysis the presence of children under age 6 is also used.
In most rounds of TSCS, respondents are asked to report their present
employment status and their spouses’. The questions are detailed with
regard to sector, salary, previous working experience, workplace, and the
respondent’s relationship with their employer. As only a few questionnaires
of different years in the TSCS have asked about working hours, it is not
available in many years of the survey. Moreover, as part-time jobs are not
common in Taiwan, working hours are not taken into account.
On the other hand, because the research question is about childcare
needs, working mothers as employees or employers may make a difference
in childcare arrangement, as employers or the self-employed have higher
autonomy to arrange their working hours and make time for childcare.
In the same vein, women work for their family business are also expected
to be given higher flexibility at work. Therefore, mothers’ employment
status is recoded into three categories: employed (i.e., employees working
for private companies or government), self-employed (i.e., employers,
self-employed/independent workers, or family workers), and unemployed
or inactive (i.e., housewives, students, and retirees).
Methods
Cross-tabulations and logistic regression are adopted to analyze the data.
While cross-tabulations are used to explore the relationship between
explanatory variables and the outcome variables, binary logistic regression
is adopted to examine the effects of childcare needs with other factors being
held constant.
Descriptive Results from Cross-Tabulations
This section examines the relationships between the dependent variable
and explanatory variables. For the benefits of understanding the research
question with social changes in mind, the changes of household composition
and the presence of young children over time from 1996 to 2011 are also
explored. The results (not shown here for conserving space) indicate that
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there is a distinct decline in the percentage of presence of young children
under age 3 over time. However, the changes of household composition
are not clearly indicated by the data collected in three different years.
Table 2 shows the percentages of people ages 18–50 in different household types by demographic and household-context variables based on the
1996, 2001, and 2011 datasets from TSCS. The results indicate that men
are more likely to live in stem or extended households than women. While
people ages 36–50 are less likely to live in stem or extended households than
their younger counterparts; city-dwellers are also less likely to live in bigger
households than people who live in rural areas. Generally, the associations
between demographic variables and household composition are as expected.
However, the higher percentage of people ages 36–50 living in stem or
extended households as compared to people ages 26–35 is intriguing. As age
is related to life stages, childcare needs or a delay in leaving parental home
may help explain this result. In terms of the household-context variables,
generally people with more parents who are alive and people with more
brothers are both more likely to live in nuclear households while the number
of sisters does not show clear differences in the distribution of household types.
Regarding childcare needs, Table 3 shows that people with children
under age 3 are more likely to live in stem or extended households as
compared to people without children under age 3.
The difference between the percentages of people with children under
age 3 living in stem or extended households and people without children
under age 3 living in stem or extended households becomes even more
evident once mothers’ employment status is taken into account. By selecting
the data with mothers’ being employed based on mothers’ employment
status, Table 3 also indicates that when mothers are employed, the likelihood of people with young children under age 3 living in stem or extended
households is even higher than it is when mothers’ employment status is not
considered.
The associations between household composition and different employment status of mothers are compared in Figure 3. Figure 3 shows that
different employment status of mothers is associated with different probability of people with young children under age 3 living in stem or extended
households. By comparing mothers employed, people with young children
under age 3 seem to be less likely to live in stem or extended households
when children’s mothers are self-employed.
To further analyze the relationship between childcare needs and
household composition, the data of people without children are excluded.
By comparison with all people ages 18–50, Table 3 shows the difference in
the percentage of people living in stem or extended households associated
with the presence of children under age 3, which decreases by 6.8 and 10
percent, respectively, once people without children are excluded from the
analysis. However, in contrast with people with children, people with young
356 CHINESE SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW
Table 2
Characteristics of People Ages 18–50 in Each Household Type
(percentage by row)
Household type
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Nuclear
Stem/Extended
N
Sex (%)
Male
64.9
35.1
1197
Female
67.1
32.9
1738
18–25
64.3
35.7
322
26–35
55.4
44.6
813
36–50
71.4
28.6
1800
City
71.0
29.0
1100
Town
67.0
33.0
1467
Rural area
48.6
51.4
368
0
88.2
11.8
76
1
69.1
30.9
301
2
71.2
28.8
943
3
61.0
39.0
761
4
62.4
37.6
854
0
67.4
32.6
622
1
58.6
41.4
425
2
56.9
43.1
378
3
60.9
39.1
435
4
68.0
32.0
366
5 and more
77.0
23.0
709
0
65.4
34.6
731
1
65.0
35.0
360
2
64.3
35.7
372
3
66.5
33.5
373
4
67.8
32.2
345
5 and more
67.6
32.4
754
Age (%)
Area (%)
Number of available parents (%)
Number of available brothers (%)
Number of available sisters (%)
(Continued )
SUMMER 2015
357
Table 2 Continued
Household type
Nuclear
Stem/Extended
N
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Year
1996
66.1
33.9
1133
2001
69.0
31.0
1048
2011
62.5
37.5
754
Total
1943
922
2935
children under age 3 are still more likely to live in stem or extended households especially when mothers are employed.
Multivariate Regression Analysis
In this section, logit regression analysis is used to examine the associations
between childcare needs and the explanatory factors. The binary outcome
variable for household composition contrasts living in stem or extended
households with living in nuclear households (stem/extended household ¼ 1,
nuclear household ¼ 0). Table 4 shows the results from the models using
logit regression. As we can see from the table, all the explanatory variables
are entered sequentially according to the modelling design based on research
interest. Demographic variables and the presence of young children under
age 3 are entered first, and then the employment status of mothers followed
by household-context variables. By entering the explanatory factors to the
models in this order, it is possible to compare the results from different models in the nested form.
In Table 4, Model 1 focuses on the effect of demographic variables and
the presence of young children under age 3. Overall the variables in Model
1 show significant effects with household composition. In contrast with
nuclear households, people ages 18–50 who live outside of the cities,
especially the rural area, are more likely to live in stem or extended households. While age shows a significant positive effect with living in stem or
extended households, age squared shows a negative effect. The positive
effect of age indicates that as people get old, they are more likely to live
in stem or extended households. Nonetheless, the negative effect of age
squared suggests a curvilinear relationship between age and household types
and shows that after people reach a certain age, they become less likely to
live in stem or extended households by comparison with nuclear households.
This finding supports the argument that household composition changes
with one’s life cycle. People change their household composition from
nuclear to other household types when they grow older and change
67.5
52.9
66.2
No child age<3
With child age <3
All
33.8
47.1
32.5
Nuclear Stem/Ext.
2935
257
2678
N
66.2
48.7
67.7
33.8
51.4
32.3
Nuclear Stem/Ext.
1429
111
1318
N
60.3
53.3
61.1
39.7
46.7
38.9
Nuclear Stem/Ext.
2492
257
2235
N
Household type of
parents ages 18–50
Presence of child age>3
Household type of people
Household type of people ages 18–50 with mothers
ages 18–50
being employed
Household Type
Household Types by Presence of Children Under Age 3 (percentage by row)
Table 3
57.8
49.6
58.6
Nuclear
42.2
50.5
41.4
Stem/Ext.
1141
111
1030
N
Household type of parents ages 18–50
with mothers being employed
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358
SUMMER 2015
359
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Figure 3. The percentage of people ages 18–50 living in stem or extended
households by presence of children under age 3 given different employment
status of mothers.
Source: Taiwan Social Change Survey (Academia Sinica 2015).
household composition again when they reach another stage in life. With the
demographic variables (i.e., sex, age, and area) held constant, the presence
of children under age 3 shows a significant positive relationship with living
in stem or extended households by comparison with nuclear households.
This significant relationship persists and even increases when mothers’
employment status is added to the regression analysis in Model 2.
In contrast with mothers being employed, when children’s mothers are
self-employed or employers, people are more likely to live in stem or
extended households than nuclear households. This result contradicts with
the prediction based on the preliminary results from cross-tabulations.
Based on the cross-tabulations, Figure 3 shows that there is a lower percentage of people with young children under age 3 living in stem or extended
households given children’s mothers are self-employed than their counterparts with employed mothers. Accordingly, it is expected that people would
be less likely to live in stem or extended households when mothers are selfemployed. However the result in Model 2 shows that when the demographic
variables and the presence of children under age 3 are held constant,
mothers being employed does not show a significant relationship with
people living in stem or extended households, whereas mothers being
self-employed has a significant positive relationship with living in stem or
extended households. To explain, while self-employed mothers are presumed
to have higher autonomy and flexibility at work, the nature of self-employment
or family business is probably related to higher likelihood of living in stem
360 CHINESE SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW
Table 4
Logit Regression on Household Composition of People Ages 18–50 (contrast
with nuclear)
Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
Model 4
Model 5
Sex (Male ¼ ref)
0.216*
0.222*
0.198*
0.197*
0.107*
0.099*
0.101*
0.103*
0.090
0.002**
0.002**
0.002**
0.002**
0.002**
Town
0.182*
0.185*
0.246**
0.249**
0.246**
Rural area
0.947***
0.935***
1.076***
1.084***
1.079***
0.327*
0.325*
–
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Female
Age
Age square
0.198*
Area (city ¼ ref)
Presence of children ages <3 (no child age <3 ¼ ref)
With child age <3
0.381**
0.391**
Mothers’ employment status (unemployed/inactive ¼ ref)
employed
0.111
0.007
0.008
0.009
Self-employed/
employer
0.356*
0.328**
0.322**
0.321*
Number of
available parents
0.114**
0.113**
0.114**
Number of
available brothers
0.128***
0.120***
0.121***
0.016
0.023
0.023
2001
0.113
0.113
2011
0.063
0.056
Number of
available sisters
Year (1996 ¼ ref)
Presence of children ages <6 (no child age <6 ¼ ref)
With child age <6
Constant
Log likelihood
Chi-square
0.193
1.795*
1.740*
1.972*
2.015*
1.807*
1805.5103 1801.3828 1777.5844 1776.3933 1777.2889
143.98
152.23
199.83
202.21
8.32
45.41
2.37
200.42
Model comparison
X2
–
P value
N
0.0156
2,935
2,935
<0.001
2,935
0.305
2,935
2,935
Notes: *p < 0.05; ** p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001.
or extended households in contrast with nuclear households. As for mothers
being employed, after controlling for demographic variables and the
presence of children under age 3, the insignificant correlation between mothers
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SUMMER 2015
361
being employed and living in stem or extended households by comparison with
mothers being unemployed or inactive indicates that the positive relationship
shown in Figure 3 could be explained by demographic factors.
On the other hand, the comparison between Model 1 and Model 2 seeks
to tease out the effects of childcare needs by taking mothers’ employment
status into account in Model 2. After controlling for mothers’ employment
status, people ages 18–50 with children under age 3 become even more likely
to live in stem or extended households instead of nuclear households.
Although different employment status of mothers may be associated with
different levels of flexibility at work and hence different childcare needs,
the presence of young children still shows a significant relationship with
higher likelihood of coresiding with elderly parents or extended kin by
comparing effects of the presence of young children within the group of
the same employment status of mothers.
Household-context variables are entered in Model 3. It is presumed that
the number of elderly parents alive has a positive relationship with the
likelihood of people living in stem or extended households. The significant
positive relationship between the number of available parents and living in
stem or extended households in Model 3 supports the assumption. While
the result with the number of parents is straightforward, the significant
negative relationship between the number of brothers and living in stem
or extended households is intriguing. As discussed earlier, intergenerational coresidence between sons and elderly parents is expected in
a traditional Chinese family. However, if there were more than one son,
as one of the sons takes the coresidence responsibility, other sons are more
likely to live in separate households and practice filial piety through
financial support or visits. Moreover, due to space limits, it is less likely
to form extended households with sons, sons’ spouses, and elderly parents
under the same roof.
Comparisons between Model 2 and Model 3 show that the strength of the
effect of the presence of children under age 3 decreases while the effect of
mothers being self-employed increases. This implies that the effect of the
presence of young children on household composition could be partly
explained by the availability of kin. In other words, as the availability of
kin varies, the likelihood of people with young children living in stem or
extended households changes. This finding is expected as the availability
of kin predetermines the possibilities that people could live in stem or
extended households. What is noteworthy is that, even after controlling
for the number of parents, the number of brothers and sisters, the significant
correlations between the presence of children under age 3 and living in stem
or extended households still exists. As data used in this study spans fifteen
years from 1996 to 2011, Model 4 adds years into the analysis. While all
the other explanatory variables are held constant, there is no significant
relationship between years and household composition as shown in Model
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362 CHINESE SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW
4. Although the result here implies that there is no significant changes of the
household composition between 1996 to 2011, previous studies in China and
Taiwan have generally agreed on a declining trend in three-generations or
extended households during the past decades (Ren and Treiman 2015;
Chang 2014; Yang, Li, and Chen 2008). The insignificant result may be
because the data used in this study only spans fifteen years of time with data
taken from three different years within this period.
According to the literature, childcare responsibilities are mainly
shouldered by mothers or families before children reach age 3 (Wang and
Sun 2003, Wang 2011). Previous studies have also indicated that childcare
is often arranged differently for children under age 3 and children ages 3–6
(Wang 2011). Therefore, it is argued that seeking childcare support from
kin by coresidence could be temporary. After children reach age 3, private
childcare providers would fill the need for childcare as parents would accept
external care providers as reliable caregivers. To examine this argument,
Model 5 is added into the analysis, which replaces the variable “the presence
of children under age 3” with “the presence of children under age 6.” The
result shows that unlike the presence of children under age 3, the presence
of children under age 6 is not significantly correlated with household
composition. This helps to further clarify the relationship between childcare
needs and household composition in Taiwan. The temporary living
arrangement––coresidence with elderly parents or extended family members,
is not associated with childcare in general, but care of children under
a certain age (i.e., 3).
Discussion and Conclusion
Generally the presumed relationship of childcare needs and household
composition is supported by the results in this study. The distinct association between having children under age 3 and living in stem or extended
households shown in Table 3 is also significant in the regression analysis
after holding demographic and household-context factors constant.
Although this finding could not imply that people with children under age
3 undertake a decision-making process and decide to strategically live with
elderly parents or extended family members, it does show that there is an
association between childcare needs and household composition. Weather
living in stem or extended households is a strategic choice made by people
or a usual custom is a question awaiting future studies.
On the other hand, in the context of social change, as the size of households in Taiwan is getting smaller (Chang 2014), the finding seems to be
paradoxical in a way that it indicates the association between childcare
needs and living in stem or extended households while family support
declines. Moreover, with the deterioration of family traditions, integrational
coresidence may become even less common in the future. Accordingly, the
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SUMMER 2015
363
finding does not seem helpful in terms of providing insights for childcare
arrangements in today’s Taiwan. However, I would like to argue that the
finding is valuable exactly because intergenerational coresidence declines.
Taiwan is not a society with well-developed public childcare system or
eldercare system. Traditionally, care is the responsibility of family. As the
proportion of traditional households with elderly parents and children
living together decreases, many people are worried that people who need
care would be left without support. While it is likely true in many cases, this
study shows that elderly parents or extended family members are still the
potential support that people could turn to even when they are not living
together. Elderly parents or extended family members are likely to provide
childcare support through temporary living arrangements. The finding
of a significant relationship between the presence of children under a certain
age (i.e., 3) and living in stem and extended households shows that the
coresidence is temporary.
Regarding the limitations of this study, one of them is that this study
could not really establish the causal relationship between having children
under age 3 and living in stem and extended households as cross-sectional
data is limited in identifying the timing of events over the life course.
Therefore, for future studies of this topic, if longitudinal data is available,
it may help understand the relationship of childcare needs and household
composition better. Moreover, in-depth interviews with household members
may provide information of the decision-making process of childcare
arrangements and living arrangements.
Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Yaojun Li and Angela Dale for providing their
valuable comments and suggestions at the early stage of this study, and Chingli
Yang for her expert guidance on household type classification. I am also
grateful to the Taiwan Social Change Survey Data team for providing access
to the TSCS data.
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About the Author
Yung-Han Chang received her Ph.D. from the Institute for Social Change at
the University of Manchester. Her main interests include family sociology,
childcare arrangements, and housing pathways of young people. In 2012 she
joined the faculty of the University of Kang Ning in Taiwan as an assistant
professor in the Department of Healthcare Management.
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