Traditional collective values and imported individualistic concepts collide in Taiwan: how does the grandparent-grandchild relationship change?
Care for old people is a particular concern in ageing societies. In Taiwan, traditional collective cultures encourage collective practice, including informal family care of elderly people. However, social change is modifying traditional values and behaviours, leading some commentators identify a western style of individualism on this change. This thesis explores how Taiwanese young adult grandchildren and their grandparents interpret ’collectivism’ and ‘individualism’ and think about or draw on these value systems in familial interactions. This was achieved through in-depth individual interviews with 20 pairs of college-aged grandchildren and their grandparents living in different locations and family households. The research questions mainly focus on three areas. Firstly, how perceptions of the role, and the attached expectations of being a grandchild construct contemporary grandchildren’s understandings of their orientations to their families. Secondly, how grandchildren interpret traditional and what they understand imported individualistic value systems and how these operate on personal and family lives. Lastly, how the two generations, grandparents and grandchildren, perceive transformation of Taiwanese society and family, particularly their views of the effects of domestic-demographics and wider structural changes on the grandparent-grandchild relationship over time. How grandchildren viewed collectivism and individualism and reported their behaviours towards the grandparent generation was both as expected in terms of the results of previous research and contained some unexpected outcomes. According to the interviewees, being more individualistic is responsible for causing distance between family members, whereas possessing more collective perspectives encourages more communal considerations for common benefit. However, grandchild informants acknowledged benefits of individualistic concepts and use them to rationalise intergenerational flows that do not follow tradition, arguing that personal considerations themselves are able to contribute more collective practices. Interestingly, the expressed views of the grandchild generation reverse commonly perceived negative impacts of individualistic concepts on collective interests. Critically, the youth in Taiwan still regards themselves as being primarily guided by collective-based doctrines, by indicating how traditional Chinese values are still prioritised. Meanwhile, the concepts of individualism are placed as complementary principles by the grandchildren, although they and their grandparents had identified some negative effects of individualistic-led tendencies in their society and families.