Young parents clash over child's surname

Updated: 2010-05-26 17:32
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CHENGDU - Young Chinese parents are deviating from the ancient paternal tradition and not always having their children taking the father's surname, as this new generation of parents, mostly single-children, jockey to give their kids their own family name.

According to a survey by Phoenix News Media-affiliated,  about 80 percent of female respondents agreed with children taking their mother's surname while about three quarters of male respondents opposed the idea.

Since the survey began late Tuesday, more than  20,000 people have responded.

In another survey posted earlier by, nearly 70 percent of respondents said they would consider giving the mother's surname to their kids. And, if a mother gave birth to twins, almost 65 percent of respondents said they would have one twin use one of the parent's surname and the other kid the other parent's surname.

One message posted by a mother said: "It would be fair enough to have one twin use my surname because I work as hard as my husband to earn the bread and raise the children. But he opposed, feeling that the twins only belong to his clan."

Hu Guangwei, deputy director of the Sociology Institute of the Sichuan Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, attributed the change to the rise of women's rights and increased open-mindedness among the generation.

"A name is just a person's social label. But for thousands of years, the surname has had many connotations relating to familial lineage, blood relationship and patriarchal clan rules. Surnames thus have long been viewed as the marker for patriarchal lineage inheritance," Hu said.

Under the Marriage Law of China, a newborn may be given the surname of either the father or the mother.

To ease dispute, many parents chose to use double surnames or a combination of the surnames of both the father and mother, sometimes causing the child's name to be as long as four Chinese characters.

The majority of Chinese full names involve two to three characters, with the first one representing the family name.

Another popular alternative solution is to keep the surname of the father and combine the mother's surname into the given name. This might not change the naming tradition but might give the mother some comfort.

China adopted its family-planning policies in the late 1970s to curb the rapid expansion of its population. The first generation born under the one-child policy have reached childbearing age.

Hu said that a naming revolution might be in the pipeline for China as different ideas about equality, modernity and patriarchy collide.