Ethnicity and culture play an important role in the composition of families and parenting styles which differ from culture to culture. This paper examines the differences in parenting styles between Western and Chinese cultures and why those differences exist. China’s Confucian-based cultural beliefs and its One-Child policy have both impacted on Chinese parenting styles and for Chinese parents, the way they raise their children has changed dramatically.
Chinese parents place high value on independence and self- confidence and were less concerned about obedience as qualities desirable in a child. In Chinese culture, the role of the mother has evolved from Confucian principles which require that children show loyalty and respect for their elders and that the elders must responsibly teach, discipline or govern the children. The concepts of chiao shun, or “training” is lodged in the Confucian influence and has a very positive meaning in Chinese culture. However in Western culture, this concept of training evokes associations such as “regimented”, “militaristic” or “strict” and provokes negative connotations for Westerners who do not share Confucian traditions. The concept of training is quite important for explaining the academic success of Chinese children. Chinese training and the control that Chinese parents exert are motivated by their intense concern for their children to be successful.
China’s One-Child policy has had a direct impact on the physical formation of the extended family and how family members relate to one another . As can be seen from the diagram below, a typical family might consist of four grandparents, two parents, some uncles and aunts and the one child without siblings. The absence of siblings and the subsequent loss of extended family have been partly responsible for a change to Chinese parenting styles, and while stereotypical beliefs of Chinese parenting remain, research has shown that Chinese parenting styles have indeed changed since the inception of the One-Child policy.
Typical Chinese Family under the One-Child Policy
Most Chinese women now work because the demands of raising a family are fewer. The single child’s experience of being is vastly different from the parenting which his parents and grandparents would have received. Grandparents and parents were subjected to the stereotypical Chinese parenting style which was authoritarian and restrictive. They were expected to obey their parents without question, to achieve the goals set for them by their parents, and no allowance was made for open, two-way communication between parents and children.
At this time, Chinese children were exposed to examples of proper behavior and were restricted in exposure to examples of undesirable behavior. Much of their ‘training’ was incumbent on their mothers, who provided a nurturing environment for their children at a young age, and once they began to attend school, provided the drive and support for them to achieve at school and to meet familial expectations.
In contrast to this, the single offspring still receives firm discipline, but is encouraged by both parents to proper behaviors with overt love, warmth and support. While the single child is still expected to achieve academically in order to be successful in life, he is encouraged to do so with cheerful firmness, and both parents are heavily involved in his upbringing.
Chinese children do not receive unnecessary freedoms and parents are very strict about codes of ethics and conduct and rules and regulations. One of the driving forces behind this parenting style is the One-Child Policy, which forces parents to concentrate all of their energies and attention on only a single child. Chinese parents, already primed in a culture of hard work and perfectionism, use authoritative parenting styles to ensure that the child is perfectly raised and that they do not bring shame or disgrace upon their family.
Some sociological studies have stated that some parents of the One-Child policy may tend to overindulge their children, which would lead to poor social communication and co-operation skills, as a result of having no siblings. It has also be said that the One-Child Policy has tended to create “Little Emperors”, a group of pessimistic, self-absorbed, low risk takers, who could spell disaster for China’s dynamic economy.
The experience of Chinese single children of today is vastly different from that of their parents and grandparents. Their forebears usually married a person of the same race and social class, who lived in proximity to one another. The Chinese children of today are readily encouraged to travel overseas to complete their education. In doing so, it is quite possible that they will meet and marry a person of a different race and culture. They may return to China at the completion of their studies, but they may also choose to remain in the country in which they married. This is more likely to be accepted by the immediate family that it was in their parent’s or grandparents’ generation. It is much more likely that the single child of today’s generation could expect to have more than one child, either due to the recent change in the Chinese One-Child Policy or residence in another country and these children would be raised with an authoritative rather than authoritarian parenting style.
The Chinese family’s experience is very different from those of Western cultures. The changes in the composition of family due to the One-Child policy has meant that the support provided by the former extended family no longer exists and it is becoming incumbent on fewer people to support the older generations. Whilst Chinese parenting methods are often seen to be strict and authoritarian, the experience of the current generation is vastly different from that perception, and it is expected that a more authoritative parenting emphasis will continue into the future.
. It is interesting to speculate whether or not Chinese parenting styles will undergo another transition, or will revert to earlier styles, now that the One-Child Policy has been recently abandoned, the government now allowing families to have to children, to address the country’s ageing population.
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