Chinese Individualisms: Childrearing Aspirations for the Next Generation of Middle-Class Chinese Citizens

Sung won Kim, Kari Elle Brown, Vanessa L. Fong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This article draws on surveys (N = 406) and interviews (n = 48) of graduates of a middle school in Dalian City, Liaoning Province, China, who were part of the first generation of children born under the one-child policy that began along with China's economic reforms in 1979 and were between ages 25 and 30 when they were interviewed in 2011–14. We compared how they said they had been raised by their parents with how they hope to raise their own children. We found that, while their parents raised them with the disciplined study habits and high expectations children needed to become successful in the newly competitive education system of the 1990s, our interviewees had developed a new understanding of what it would take for children to become successful, upwardly mobile Chinese citizens in the 2010s, and emphasized freedom and the development and pursuit of individual interests, pointing towards a hybrid form of “soft” and “hard” individualism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-366
Number of pages25
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Sep

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements. The research conducted for this article was approved by the Institutional Review Boards of Harvard University and Amherst College. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants No. BCS-0845748, BCS-1303404, and BCS-1357439. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The research for this article was also supported by a Beinecke Brothers Memorial Fellowship, an Andrew W. Mellon Grant, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, a grant from the Weatherhead Center at Harvard University, a postdoctoral fellowship at the Population Studies Center of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Demography Fund Research Grant, a grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Visiting Fellowship at the Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities at Cambridge University, a grant from the Harvard University China Fund, grants from the Harvard University Asia Center, a grant from the Harvard University William F. Milton Fund, and grants from Amherst College. We thank Amy Wagaman, Shu-Min Liao, Eunmi Mun, Yun Zhu, Edward Kim, Dian Yu, Yushi Shao, Ying Guan, Bowen Yang, Anqi Cao, March Zhengyuan Fan, Aubrey Grube, Angelina Guan, Yasmine Huerta, Ha Ram Hwang, and Debbie Wen for their advice and assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 by the American Anthropological Association

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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