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The Unforeseen Social Effects of China's One Child Policy
5 years ago

China’s One-Child Policy, now in its fourth decade, has achieved its goal of controlling population growth in the world’s most populous country, but it has also created major age and gender imbalances in the process.

In addition to sweeping social and economic instability, the policy has proven problematic on an individual level. An entire generation of Chinese has essentially grown up spoiled and without siblings. The resulting shift in social behavior is often referred to as the “little emperor effect,” and researchers have now quantified its impact in a study published this week in Science.

Researchers gathered 421 participants from urban Beijing, where the One-Child Policy has been strictly enforced since 1979. Participants were split into two groups, the first comprising people born in the few years leading up to the introduction of the policy, and the second comprising people born in the few years after. Thus the participants were all approximately the same age, but had grown up in very different social contexts.

Participants played four different cooperative games, which allowed researchers to isolate and measure particular behaviors such as altruism. The results indicate a stark contrast between the behaviors of pre- and post-policy participants.

One particular game focused on trust. The first player was given a sum of money, and had the option to either keep it or give a portion to a second player. Whatever sum the player chose to give away would be doubled, and the second player would then have the opportunity to give some back to the first player. In both player positions, the post-policy group chose to give away less money, demonstrating that they were generally less trusting of other players and likewise less trustworthy. In other games they shied away from risk and competition, tending instead toward pessimism and in some cases even neuroticism.

The researchers say parenting plays a major role in establishing these social behaviors, but without siblings in the picture, parents had fewer opportunities to teach social skills such as sharing. The researchers warn that if the personalities of an entire generation tend toward being self-centered and uncooperative, it could have major ramifications on Chinese society as a whole.

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5 years ago

Very interesting Diane.  I do know that in Japan (and assume China in the old days) the family unit includes grandparents and great-grandparents all living in the same home.  The children have all the extra love of the extended family as well as meaningful involvement and discipline.  The child is taught from the very beginning about respect, etc.  The only problem that Japan faces (or did) was the highly competitiveness of the education system.  The child suicide rate was pretty high.

5 years ago

The gender imbalance also factors into the population control.  It is a popular thing to abort girls since a premium is placed on sons.  A man with a herd of women can procreate like crazy.  A woman can only give birth to approximately 1.2 children per year assuming she manages to stay constantly pregnant aside from a couple of weeks immediately after giving birth, no matter how many men are available to her.  Somehow, I doubt that the authorities have failed to notice this.

5 years ago

I read an article about Japan and the high incidence of rape going on because there is such a shortage of "girls."   That will eventually translate into more homosexual activity.

This is sick.

5 years ago

Diane, it appears that the whole world is in major decline doesn't it?  I have wondered if we were to legalize prostitution and then require that they had to have 1) business licenses and pay taxes, 2) have routine health inspecitions, 3) require monthly medical tests for disease and 4) have places of business rather than the girls out on the street if this might not be the best direction for prostitution.  It is not going to go away as it is the oldest profession and is still around, so why not do something to take it out of the crime scene.  There could be requiements that the women have to "rent a room" and that they be their own business manager, eliminating pimps and making it a more legitimate business.  It seems this would also make it a safer profession for the women as they would have no fear of the pimp, as well.  Just some thoughts.  It would also make it completely consensual and there could be security to make sure the girls were treated correctly and that rape did not occur, as it can.  So, we would cut down on the crime rate, take it off the street and away from criminal influences, etc.  

David, this preference for boys is not just an Asian thing, Mexico places much more importance on boys than girls.  Due to the high Catholic influence girls are not aborted and they do have a high family influence and children are prized, but the boy is the favored child.  I am not sure if this is true of other Spanish/Portugese influenced countries, but I do know it is the case in Mexico.

5 years ago

It might help.    What a mess!  My guess is that those who have kept their daughters are protecting them like a hawk and/or sending them to the US for their education in hopes that they'll marry an American and become a citizen to get them away from the predators in their own country.

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