50% plus of city's under-3s raised by grandparents

By Zhang Kun (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-07-13 07:03

SHANGHAI: More than half the city's children aged three and under are cared for by their grandparents, which often leads to problems later in life, a survey has claimed.

The Shanghai population and family planning committee conducted the survey in 34 Shanghai communities and found that 53 percent of all children aged up to three were looked after mainly by grandparents. And nearly 70 percent of the families showed dissatisfaction with this way of bringing up their children.

More than three-quarters of the parents surveyed also lived with their grandparents, and nearly 90 percent of the grandparents were involved in some way with childcare.

Just 43 percent of young children are cared for by their parents.

Professor Wang Shixiong, a pediatrician at the Xinhua Hospital, told China Daily: "When a child is born, its brain is about 25 percent developed, by age three the figure is 60 percent, and at age five almost 90 percent.

"Parents should be their baby's first teachers, and be there to cherish the key stages of the child's development.

"It is most important to give the child all kinds of early experiences, encouraging them to use their senses, to see, hear, touch and communicate."

But few grandparents are aware of these things, the survey said.

Instead, they tend to make lots of rules that limit the child's movements. This nurtures weaknesses such as overdependency and timidity.

Most grandparents also believe in traditional wisdom and experience rather than new theories on childcare.

"Grandparents tend to believe it is important the babies are well fed and warmly dressed, but they don't pay enough attention to their emotional world," Jane Tian, the mother of a five-year-old boy, said.

"My mother used to turn on the TV while feeding the baby," she told China Daily. "When his attention was focused on the screen, it was easier to make him eat."

Tian found that many children, like her son, showed a lack of interest in food or simply did not know how to eat on their own when they went to kindergarten.

In addition, many elderly people speak dialects rather than standard Chinese. Children brought up hearing a mixture of dialects and standard Chinese showed difficulty with their own language building, the survey said.

Experts with the Shanghai population and family planning committee found that children raised by grandparents also had difficulties with learning and adjusting to their environment, suffered psychological and personality problems and showed a lack of independence.

Eighty-three percent of those surveyed said they thought both grandparents and mothers should receive training on modern childcare theory, and 3.7 percent said nannies should be trained as well.

"The best people to care for babies are the parents," Wang said. But this is not always practical in modern urban China, he said.

"We live with a lot of pressure nowadays. There is the house, the car ... you simply can't afford to raise a child on one parent's income," Xia Weihang, the mother of a two-year-old boy, said.

"There are good parts and bad parts of having the baby raised by its grandparents," Tian said.

"But it's better than leaving the child with a nanny."

(China Daily 07/13/2007 page5)

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