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Single-child couples foresee feeding burdens
Updated: 2005-03-15 08:59

AS the first generation of the only child started their own families, many social problems such as one-couple-feeding-four-parents were issues that China could not ignore, said deputies at the annual session of China¡¯s top legislature.

Supporting their elderly parents was the primary issue for a young husband and wife who were both only children, said Li Honggui, vice chairman of both the Chinese Population Society and the Chinese Family Planning Association, and a deputy to the annual session of the National People's Congress.

"Supporting the elderly is not just a matter of money, but more of a mental issue," he said.

"This generation is better educated than their parents, more independent and very busy at work. Besides, with the families growing smaller, they have no brothers or sisters to share the responsibility of taking care of their parents who feel lonely in their old age."

China introduced the family planning policy in the late 1970s to curb the rapid population growth. Currently, there are 40 million only children, with half living in urban areas.

According to a survey by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, 6.1 million of the first only-child generation now have their own families.

Chinese families are shrinking. In 1982, a family had 4.43 people on average, but the number fell from 3.97 in 1990 to 3.6 at present.

The emergence of new family patterns had greatly challenged China's tradition of patriarchy, said deputy Hou Zixin, president of Tianjin's Nankai University.

More and more young couples are quarreling over their babies' surnames.

"Traditionally, a baby takes its father's surname. But as the mother is the only child from her family, the maternal side also wants to have their surname inherited. Some families have to compromise to take a compound surname by using 'paternal surname plus maternal surname' or coin a new one," he said.

Where to spend Lunar New Year holidays has also become a topic for debate for only-child couples.

According to tradition, a wife spent the Spring Festival at her husband's home. But now, parents on each side eagerly wait to see their only child so young wives and husbands often separate for the holidays to visit their own parents.

"They prefer to view marriage as a choice of lifestyle and choose their wedding date and spouses based on their financial strength and affection. But with their stronger personality and other social factors, the marriage sometimes has a difficult time," said deputy Liang Liang from the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

"Some young couples are poor at handling family relations. They would consider divorce for a small conflict," said deputy Duan Zhiai, a middle school teacher from Shanxi Province.

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