05/01/2020 No. 155
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Problematic The One Child Family-China
By Dr. Matt Marko, Ph.D.
March 1, 2008

The one child policy of China, while understandable that something was needed to be done due to the extreme population here, has also had its repercussions in the aspect of child rearing.


The family has its importance in China. Its children have been and still are of high value and great importance to the people here. This has become since the institution of this policy, even more pronounced and important to those of this culture.


Established by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1979, this policy meant to decrease the population growth has done that. But in this has also created some unnatural results and some additional problems for the future as we are already seeing.


The number of males has risen somewhat as it is being seen now. This in and of itself will create an imbalance of males to females ratios. Therefore we can somewhat predict that there will be a lack of partners for the males here. This can be postulated to create an atmosphere of more competition for the males, which may result in more male violence not only among themselves, but toward the females as well. Incidents such as rape and violence may certainly go up in numbers toward the females as well.


While males have always been a preference for people having children, since this policy, it has become more dominantly preferred as well. There have been reports and rumors of many things associated with this, as in terminating the birth of a child if it was found to be a girl. (Abortion is legal in China and too often used as a birth control method). Although it is illegal here for a medical facility or person to disclose the gender of the fetus. Some in the more rural areas have been said to kill the infant at birth if it were to be a girl. But then some in these areas also do have more than one child even though the policy exists. 


Now in the case of two people who marry, they have changed this policy in that if the couple in question has no siblings, then they are allowed to have two children. So there are some changes to this policy in an attempt to correct the potential problems involved.


Another area of difficulty this has created though is in the raising of these children. The child, (especially a boy), is now a major focus for the entire family. Here, a child is expected, obligated by culture to care for the family once they are adults. In a system where there is little government retirement income, it comes to the family to care for themselves. And due to this standard, again a male is more the preference as the belief is that a male can better be able to care for them. He is "obligated" more so than a female. But this is changing somewhat as the pressure for the female increases as it is their only child. In some ways, it is as if the child is a long term savings account for their future retirement years.


So this one child is born, and the family does everything possible to safeguard this child from everything. To protect this child from any and all possible harm in the ways that they think is best. They give to this child, everything that they possibly can. They seek to send the child to the "best" schools, best in every aspect of education. They will go in debt, manipulate any and everyone they can to provide everything possible for this child. After all, for this child to grow up and take care of them later, everything must be in place. They must be the best to provide the most. And for those who have money enough, they give this child money and many gifts freely, something which is recent in China as there are more people earning more now then in the past. This has caused the child to believe that they are "entitled" to a great many things automatically.


They protect the child from the "real life problems". They will not share with them about any financial difficulties, disagreements, illnesses, etc. Believing that the child shouldn't be disturbed by such things as it would distract them from their ultimate goals. All focus must be about getting the best scores on exams in school and on their studies. The child is sheltered from the problems and therefore the problem solving skills and awareness that they so desperately need in life is not obtained. They are unaware of these things as they grow and are sent out to encounter real life. Unprepared, they find themselves lost and without the needed ability to understand all that they encounter.


Many of them are pushed to the opposite extreme while being so protected at the same time. They are guarded and protected, and then they are pushed and coerced to another, for example music lessons, dance, sports etc. And almost always in the direction completely directed by whatever the parents believe is the best for the child, (or for themselves), as the case may be. I have encountered many people here who are in careers or jobs which they absolutely hate or at the least have no interest in whatsoever. Finding doctors here who hate what they do, saying "I never wanted to be a doctor, but my parents made me as my scores on the entrance exams were high enough to get me in". So many end up in taking what the parents dictate and insist on.


Most are told, "you must be the best, make the best/highest exam scores, finish at the top of your class, when you graduate from college - must find  the best - highest paid job, must get married, must have a child", and in this order. If you are a female especially by the age of 27 and have not, then it's time for all friends and family to push you even more.


School, is based on exam scores here and that is the primary focus. Only made 85? Why not 100? What is wrong with you? You must do better. Many are told this and it continues to be at the heart of their education system and life. Protected far too much while also pushing and demanding far too much at the same time.


So in this they have created those whom think the world should just be given to them a platter, and those who suffer great pressure and stress from being told that they must at all costs. And those costs are becoming more and more evident.


Students here all in a panic about their college entrance exam, or the opposite of not caring at all at that stage in life. And this is real panic, real anxiety, real depression, of which is largely due to that upbringing and the pressure placed upon them but without giving them all the skills and knowledge needed to accomplish it. And as I mentioned before, many times for something that they have no interest in to begin with. 


And while the child may have done well in all the schools prior to college, then they many times find themselves with lower grades and scores for things here. This point they can't understand which again throws them into anxiety and many times extreme depression. They cannot understand "how" this could possibly happen. Now in a college or university where there is more to do, more obligation and less control ability from the parents on the system they now find themselves in.


In their frustration, they will do everything to try to find a way to solve this problem, but without the needed learning of skills for this, they many times fail. Some students have completely failed college, and yet told their parents that they graduated. They will continue to hide all mistakes, failures, etc. for as long as possible, and anything to avoid facing the family. They say "I don't want to, or can't bother my wonderful parents about this; they have done so much already". So some have the desire to solve it, but not the ability and have little place to turn to. The pressure is obvious.


So much so that in fact there are an extraordinary number of suicides here among these students. How much, there are no statistics available. But it is to be sure a larger than average amount for this age group. They see no alternative but for suicide. And there seems to be a difference here in comparison to many other countries. In Asia, it seems that when someone decides to commit to suicide, they have less hesitation to doing it.  And the preferred methodology here is to jump from a high place. This also appears to be more predominant in the males as opposed to the females. Which is similar as to other statistics from other countries?


Many also just stop trying. There are many who become addicted to the Internet and have spent days on end doing nothing but this. This largely is due to the fact that they have been far too spoiled and not guided correctly in these formative years.


They must start to understand that they cannot place this tremendous pressure on their "one child" while at the same time preventing them from learning the life skills and coping skills needed in order to understand the world and the real life problems of which they will face as they grow and go out into this new area of life.


They go through this child raising time in their life, only in many cases to find later that the child "will not" do as they wanted and fails, or worse, that all this effort and energy was for nothing when the child commits suicide. In one brief instant, all is lost.


Psychology is still relatively new in China. And it has a very long way to go before it catches up to many other places. The understanding of child raising is cultural and more. And it is time for things to change here. For there to be a better understanding of the how's to do this. No, there are no absolutes for this, but learning, growing, improving upon it is something which must be sought in order to make things better.


There is a need broad and wide for the parents of these children to change some of these habits as the results are not conducive to betterment for the family or the society as a whole. The schools need to put into place a psychology system that will help these students to be able to learn and function in a better way. Counseling offices and appropriate adjoining services must be initiated in order to provide the care and guidance that is so desperately needed by these young people to whom the future belongs.


There is some progress here in these directions, but it is very slow and due to cultural beliefs and ideas, is resisted in its coming. In time it will change, but the question remains, how long before it does. And how many will suffer before it can take more affect.

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Dr. Matt Marko received his Ph. D. from University of California at Berkeley (UCB) and has lived in China for six years. He is a psychiatrist currently licensed and certified in China. He was the Medical Director of Psychiatry and General Practice Medicine at the North American International Hospital, Hangzhou, China, and taught at UCB, Ningbo, Wuhan and Zhejiang Universities. He was also the Medical/English Editor HBPD INT Medical Journal. He now works at the Linzi Psychology Institute in Shanghai, China, as a psychologist and is director of the Hangzhou Neosis Heathcare Center in Hangzhou. His contact information:
Phone: 0571-860994670 (h), 13958099052 (cell), Email:docmarko2005
@yahoo.com, Website: http://hzneosis.com.
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