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
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
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
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)