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China's one-child generation faces lonliness
(China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-16 11:13

A survey shows that more than 60 per cent of Chinese young people growing up without siblings say they felt lonely in their childhood.

The single child certificated seen in this undated file photo. China has implemented the family-planning policy in 1979. [baidu]
And about 46 per cent of them, who were born in the 1980s said that they would prefer to have two children themselves.

The survey, carried on by the cultural channel of sin.com.cn - one of the country's most popular websites - drew responses from about 7,000 young people between the ages of 15 to 25. It ended Friday.

The questions focused on views of family and marriage.

China implemented its family-planning policy in the late 1970s. Officials say that without it, the country would have 300 million more people than it has today.

In urban centres, most children born in the late 1970s and 1980s are the only child in their family.

They have no brothers or sisters and have largely enjoyed all the their parents' and grandparents' love and care.

They are often compared to the "sun" of a family, meaning the centre of the family's universe.

It is time now for young people born from that period to work and organize their own families. The survey was designed with that in mind.

According to its results, more than 58 per cent of these young people admitted they are lonely, selfish and willful.

And more than 66 per cent of them expressed disappointment at having no brothers or sisters with whom they can share their happiness or sorrow in life.

"It is very natural and unavoidable for them to be lonely, selfish and willful," said Zhou Xiaozheng, a professor with the Sociology Department of the Beijing-based Renmin University of China.

"Affection among family members, friends and lovers are necessary emotions for a person's growing up in a healthy way. Without these three emotions, life is incomplete."

"And the affection among brothers and sisters is just a normal feeling these people lack. The absence of such emotion results in the selfishness of the people. B

ut the society should not blame their shortcomings, because it is not their fault," said Zhou.

Actually most of these want to have brothers and sisters.

"Although I had peers to play with me in my childhood, sharing my happiness and sorrow, the friendship between us was totally different from the emotion among brothers, which is more intimate," said Wang Meng, who was born in 1982 and is now working for a construction company in Beijing.

"I remember among my friends, there were twin brothers. They were so close. How I envied them! But it is not usual to have a twin brother or sister."

While Wang is representative of the majority, Wu Ye belongs to the group who do not want to have brothers or sisters - 14 per cent. She was also born in 1982 and works at a real estate company in Beijing.

"I do not want another child to share the love and care from my parents. I want my parents to love me as the only one, forever. And I did not feel lonely when I was a child. I had friends accompanying me when I was happy or sad. It was enough for me," said Wu.

But after more than 20 years of the family planning policy, problems of the policy have begun to emerge on the national scene.

"For example, the aging population structure is one of them," said Zhou.

China has adjusted the policy in recent years in some cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, where couples that both come from one-child families are free to have a second child with a four-year interval between the first and the second child.

The adjustment gives the hope and chance for these people to make up for the regrets of their childhood.

About 46 per cent of people in the survey chose to have two children.

"I love children. If my economic condition allows it, I want to have two babies. Then they can play together and help each other. They can also learn how to share something precious and important, such as parents' love, with others. It is good for them in their lives." said Wang.

About 14 per cent of those polled said they did not want children at all.

"Having a child? Of course not!" said Wu. "If I have a child, I will love him/her so much. I am afraid such love will weaken my care for myself, which I cannot accept. I do not want a child."

"And I also think that having a child is not good for the relations between my future husband and me.

Although the only-child group has to bear the disappointment of having no brothers or sisters, they have also got what their parents have dreamed of but did not achieve. That is, they enjoyed better material enjoyment and full educational support.

Of them, about 78 per cent say they value having a good education.

As for taking care of their aged parents, about 84 per cent of participants said that they are devoted to filial respect, and will not give up the obligation of taking care of their parents under any circumstances.

But Zhou said "few people will say no when asked to take care of their parents. But whether or not they can spare time, money and energy to do so is a problem. Does one child have enough money, time or energy to take care of two aged parents? I doubt it."

His worry is not unreasonable. In another item of the survey about the basic situation of their lives, 66 per cent of people agreed that they have too many things to learn and they are busy with the task of learning.

And 61 per cent of them complained that they have to shoulder heavy pressures from their jobs. Under such circumstances, how much time and energy they can contribute to their parents is a problem. And if they have children, that time and energy might be less.

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