China's One-Child Rule May Mean Timid Adults

Researchers find kids to be risk-averse, less trusting of others

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Jan 10, 2013 5:19 PM CST

(Newser) – They're called "little emperors"—the children born in China under a law that generally limits urban families to having just one child. So how does growing up as the sole focus of doting parents affect them? Researchers have new evidence that these children are less trusting, less competitive, more pessimistic, less conscientious, and more risk-averse than people born before the policy was implemented in 1979. The study's authors say the one-child policy has significant ramifications for Chinese society, leading to less risk-taking in the labor market and possibly fewer entrepreneurs.

Two takes:

  • "Trust is really important, not just social interactions but in terms of negotiations in business, working with colleagues in business, negotiating between firms," says one of the authors from Australia's Monash University. "If we have lower levels of trust, that could make these kinds of negotiations and interactions more difficult."
  • "Only children in Chinese families are loved and given almost everything by their families and they can get resources at home without competition," says a Beijing professor not involved in the study. "Once they enter society, they are no different from other people. Having been overly protected, they feel a sense of loss and show less competitiveness."

A parent takes photos of her daughter playing the drums at a children's play area in a shopping mall in Beijing.
A parent takes photos of her daughter playing the drums at a children's play area in a shopping mall in Beijing.   (Alexander F. Yuan)
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