The Effect on Elderly Parents in Cambodia of Losing an Adult Child to AIDS



Little systematic quantitative research is available on the parents of adults who become ill and die of AIDS despite their large number and the wide range of adverse consequences. This study, based on survey data from Cambodia, explores economic and social effects on parents in a country characterized by extreme poverty and a substantial AIDS epidemic. Results indicate that parents play a major role during the illness of an adult son or daughter, often sharing living quarters, providing care, and paying for illness-related expenses. These contributions to the societal response to AIDS come at considerable cost to parents at advanced ages. Multivariate analysis suggests lasting negative consequences for parents’economic well-being, and the consequences are more substantial if the adult child's death was from AIDS rather than from other causes. The study found little evidence of stigma associated with losing a grown child to AIDS: reactions from local community members are more likely to be sympathetic and supportive than negative. These results underscore the need for organizations dealing with AIDS to recognize the contributions older persons make in coping with the epidemic and to address the burden it imposes on them.