China's only children at risk of divorce

Updated: 2006-12-07 09:33

China's "one-child" generation, born since the early 1980s, are leaving their doting parents and getting wed - to find marriage is only big enough for one.

When Tian Tian, in northeast China's Liaoning Province, was making a wedding album for college classmate Wang Yan two months after the ceremony, she learned the bride had divorced shortly after the honeymoon.

Wang brushed off Tian's concern, saying "Luckily we didn't have a child to prevent a clean break."

Wang and her 24-year-old husband had quickly tired of each other. Neither would make concessions and they bickered over trifles like who would do the laundry in the automatic washing machine or make a cup of tea.

The short-lived marriage is typical of the "post-80s" generation, says Zhang Sining, a researcher with the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences.

A survey of 162 couples under 30 showed a divorce ratio of 24.5 percent when both were only children, 8.4 percent when one was an only-child, and 11.7 percent for those from families with more than one child, says Zhang.

The one-child family became commonplace in the late 1970s and 1980s as an official policy took effect. The first group of 6.1 million one-child families were registered 27 years ago.

Parents and grandparents doted on and spoiled the single child - dubbed "little emperors" and "empresses," Zhang says.

Their intolerance and parental interference threaten the stability of their marriages, he adds.

About 87 percent of only children felt pressured to find a spouse to satisfy their parents, 58 percent acknowledged their parents were a factor in the break-up, and 55 percent said their parents interfered in their marriages.

"We are on the edge of divorce because our parents are already waging war over the 'dinner issue'," says Hu Jia, 25, in Xining City in northwest China's Gansu Province.

"His mother drops in every day to check whether I have cooked her son's favorite dishes, while my father often asks us to dinner to pull me out of housekeeping, and he quizzes my husband on whether he is taking good care of me," Hu says.

The survey showed that 92 percent of only children wanted a home away from their parents.

Over-protective parents undermine the relationships of young couples by "protecting" their offspring against their spouses rather than teach them how to cooperate, says Zhang Dasheng, director of a psychological counseling center in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang Province.

On the other hand, over-indulged only children are accustomed to seeking parental care - boys from their mothers and girls from their fathers.

"The dissatisfaction with the care from their spouses often leads to disappointment or doubts," Zhang says.

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