little emperors

little emperors
social concept
The term ‘little emperors’ (xiaohuangdi) has been coined to describe the spoiled children raised since the implementation of the one-child policy in 1979. Unlike previous generations, the ‘onlies’ (or, ‘singletons’) have no siblings to share and compete with and are easily the undivided focus of the so-called ‘4–2–1 indulgence’: four grandparents and two parents indulging one child. In urban areas, in particular, where the one-child policy is most strictly enforced and where income has risen most sharply, parents are showering their only children with love and money. Thus, the one-child generation has expanded the market for not only brand-named toys and clothes but also imported baby foods that are believed to be highly nutritious.
Many of the parents of the only children were born and raised during the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) and had themselves lost their childhood, which reinforced their desire to live their dreams through their children. When the hopes of the family are entrusted to a single child, some parents are driven to raise overachievers by pushing them in academic performance and in extracurricular classes.
Thus, the ‘onlies’ experience a ‘pressure-pleasure paradox’ whereby they are simultaneously being pushed and spoiled by the same parents. Recent research shows that the spoiledchild syndrome is not as bad as expected, but that still there are differences between only children and children with siblings. The ‘onlies’ have higher academic achievements and are taller and heavier. They display a stronger sense of self-respect and confidence, but are more egocentric and inconsiderate. It is also likely that they will be less able and willing to care for the elderly, thus potentially breaking a Chinese tradition that children support parents in their old age.
Jun, Jing (ed.) (2000). Feeding China’s Little Emperors: Food, Children, and Social Change. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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