Grandparent–Grandchild Communication and Attitudes Toward Older Adults: Relational Solidarity and Shared Family Identity in China

Yan Bing Zhang, Sile Li, Jake Harwood


Guided by intergroup contact theory and communication accommodation theory, this study examined the direct and indirect effects of Chinese young adults’ (N = 211) intergenerational family communication on behavioral attitudes toward older adults. Results indicated that communication frequency with their most frequently contacted grandparent significantly predicted willingness to have future contact with older people. Frequent and positive communication experiences with the grandparent also improved attitudes indirectly through (sequentially) enhanced relational solidarity and shared family identity with the grandparent. The grandparent’s nonaccommodation was associated negatively with relational solidarity, which subsequently led to reduced shared family identity and attitudes. Findings in this study demonstrate the critical role played by grandparent–grandchild contact in generalization of the contact effect from a specific older family member to nonfamily older people in general. These findings are discussed regarding intergenerational communication, the Chinese norm of filial piety, and intergroup theories of communication accommodation and intergroup contact.


Chinese culture, grandparent–grandchild, communication frequency, communication quality, intergenerational contact, relational solidarity, shared family identity, ageism

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