Kreager, Philip and Schröder-Butterfill, Elisabeth
Ageing and gender preferences in rural Indonesia. Southampton, GB, Centre for Research on Ageing, University of Southampton
(Centre for Research on Ageing Discussion Paper 0905).
The Asian literature on gender is well known for the strong preference for sons characteristic of patrilineal family systems in major mainland cultures. Elsewhere, however, the situation can be very different, of which the most striking is the powerful preference for daughters, and the eminent role that women play in family economy and society, in Southeast Asia’s largest matrilineal population, the Minangkabau of Sumatra. Javanese and Sundanese family systems are also often remarked for women’s influential roles, and people commonly state preferences for support and personal care from daughters. In this paper, comparative analysis drawing on ethnographic and panel survey data for rural Javanese, Sundanese, and Minangkabau communities is used to illuminate gendered support in relation to differing patterns of inter-generational exchange, socio-economic status, migration and the availability of children. Practices vary considerably between the Minangkabau and the other two populations, reflecting the primary structural significance of gender in Minangkabau identity. Yet in all communities, family networks function to ensure that both sons and daughters normally play major roles in support of their elders. Networks, and the differences in socioeconomic status they maintain, introduce considerable heterogeneity into support arrangements. The influence and importance of gender on elderly support is often contingent on other values and demands on network members, so that gender preferences can only be realised by some elders. Where survey variables are interpreted without reference to network structure and function, the importance of gender is thus likely to be underestimated
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