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Yan Ruth Xia and Anqi Xu

Chapter 3 discusses the changing family system in urban China. It shows connectedness and interactions between Chinese urban family structure and different levels of the social contexts and explains cultural, social, and economic forces directly or indirectly influencing the Chinese family. Family structure is viewed as flexible and interactive with its environment. Culture, policy, economy, and housing reform all play a role in shaping the experience of urban Chinese families. The social changes in housing, education, and the job market have brought opportunities, choices, and wealth, but at the same time posed stress to Chinese families during the social transition. Contemporary Chinese family structure is fluid and dynamic, and Chinese family structure has become more diverse with the occurrence of single-person families, single-parent families, as well as families with double income but no children and cohabitant households as living arrangements of choice. These changes both strengthen and challenge the families. The support from the extended family has served as a buffer.

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Jane Ribbens McCarthy, Ann Phoenix, Guo Yu and Xiaoli Xu

Chapter 18 regards childhood as a structural feature of Chinese society that both shapes and is shaped by children’s everyday family lives. It discusses filial piety as a key cultural theme underpinning children’s family lives and their intergenerational relationships. This chapter also examines particular aspects of contemporary parenting that might be said to relate to the theme of filial piety, namely empirical work on obedience and discipline. Next, it studies autonomy and independence as features of parenting that might be said to resonate with recent social policies and discourses of children’s rights, and reviews empirical work relevant to these themes. This chapter concludes by pointing to the need to move beyond any straightforward dichotomy of themes and practices associated with filial piety as opposed to those associated with children’s rights.

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Weiguo Zhang

Chapter 15 argues that familial relationships between adult children and their older parents are crucial to the well-being of older adults worldwide. In Chinese society, as elsewhere, adult children are the most important sources of emotional, instrumental, and financial support for elderly parents. With longer life expectancy and smaller family size in contemporary China, the Chinese population has been experiencing a rapid aging process. There is evidence that the rate of infertility is rising, as more and more couples choose not to have children, millions may never be able to marry, and millions of parents have lost their single child. As a result, the number of Chinese childless seniors is on the rise. Further, individual pathways toward childlessness also vary. Their psychological and physiological health has become a serious concern for scholars and practitioners alike. Nevertheless, the author points out, research on childlessness and the well-being of childless seniors in China is limited. For example, we do not know how non-marriage and the adoption of children has contributed to the prevalence of childlessness. Nor do we know how childless elders _ be they infertile, unmarried, voluntarily childless, or having lost their children _ differ in their physical and psychological well-being. Nor do we have a ready set of tools to improve the well-being of childless seniors. To narrow these knowledge gaps, this chapter reviews the scholarly literature on childlessness in China, focusing on the demography of childlessness and pathways toward childlessness, physical and psychological well-being of childless seniors and individual coping strategies and social policy development in this chapter.

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Arianne M. Gaetano

Chapter 8 studies shengnu (剩女), which is a derogatory label to describe educated, successful, unmarried urban women in their late twenties to forties in China. Public attention to shengnu is conditioned by state regulatory power along with the market-driven media and commercial wedding industry. Shengnu is a discursive construct that simultaneously produces the social phenomenon it purports to describe. It is also indicative of a general malaise and a conservative, patriarchal backlash wrought by recent challenges and changes to institutions of marriage, such as divorce and adultery, and of family, such as the one-child structure and aging population, as well as in gender roles, particularly due to the increasing proportion of women in higher education and white-collar professions. The institutional or/and ideological influences on shengnu include state development policies and programs; the marriage market rules of spouse selection and marital gift exchange; patterns and perceptions of marriage; family structure, gender and intergenerational relations therein, and filial piety; gender role conflict between household and workplace; and reconfigured gender norms. These in turn relate to broader socioeconomic and cultural transformations of post-socialism, including ideologies of neoliberalism, privatization, and individualism; rising incomes and consumerism; urbanization and migration; and increasing social stratification.

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Xiaotian Feng, Dudley L. Poston and Xiaotao Wang

Chapter 11 discusses China’s one-child policy and its effect on the changes in the Chinese family institution. They argue that since 1979, nearly 150 million single children have been born in China due to the ‘one child per family’ policy. It is believed that this generation of only children has dramatically changed the family structure, family relationships, and family lifestyle in China. It has also resulted in problems and issues not previously present in Chinese families, such as smaller families, a simplification of family structure, a shift from parent-centered families to child-centered families, changes in living patterns, and changes in family lifestyle. Also, there has been a decreased base of support for the elderly.

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Amy Y.M. Chow

Chapter 23 discusses bereavement and mourning in China. There are more than 10 million deaths in China each year. Assuming each death affects six persons, more than 60 million in China are facing the challenge of bereavement. This chapter offers an overview of the phenomenon of death in China as well as the history of the development of leading theories on bereavement. It reviews various theories include process stage theories, coping theories such as the task model and dual process model, as well as psychopathological theories. It also outlines the accounts that cover the relational, constructivist, and neurobiological aspects of bereavement.

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Lijun Song, Rachel Skaggs and Cleothia Frazier

Chapter 7 examines patterns of education homogamy in China, which refers to people’s tendency to marry those with similar educational attainment. It is a crucial determinant of the distribution of various resources (social, economic, and cultural capital) and serves as a key mate selection criterion. It summarizes seven hypotheses can predict an increasing trend: educational homogenization, status attainment, educational legitimacy, economic inequality, promoted sameness, female economic attractiveness, and gender inequality. In contemporary China, the rapid educational expansion and the rising return to education may lead support to three hypotheses: educational homogenization, status attainment, and educational legitimacy. The increasing economic distances require attention to the economic inequality hypothesis. Additionally, gender-related social factors play a role in spousal resemblance on education. The increasing gender segregation in occupations and earning differentiation calls for research on the gender inequality hypothesis. Finally, attention to the rural_urban divide is required in the study of educational homogamy partly because of differences in the population structure and marriage patterns.

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Dudley L. Poston

Chapter 2 uses demographic transition theory (DTT) to examine how demographic change influences marriage and family in China. It charts China’s progress through the transition, starting when Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China, and carrying through to around 2015. It then discusses the types of changes in marriage and family that are likely to occur in societies that have transitioned to low fertility, focusing specifically on age at first marriage, cohabitation, age at first intercourse, premarital intercourse, masturbation, and unbalanced sex ratios at birth. Chapter 2 presents and analyzes empirical data from China on each of these six features of marriage and family, along with more limited data for the US and a few other countries. It argues that changes in China in the levels and prevalence of these six features of marriage and the family have all been influenced by, or have been a consequence of, the changes in China as it has transitioned from high fertility rates in the 1960s to a very low rate today.

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Wen-Shan Yang

Chapter 25 documents the changes in the family system in Taiwan. It shows that the values of Taiwanese traditional families were founded on the ‘father_son axis’, characterized by a priority on family interests, an emphasis on hierarchy and birth order, women’s subordinate status, patrilineal descent, the pursuit of family growth, and the maintenance of a big family system. While some of these characteristics have persisted, families in Taiwan have been increasingly based on a ‘husband_wife axis’, due to the expansion of compulsory education and higher education as well as the rise in women’s self-awareness and labor participation rates. Relatedly, late or no marriage, late or no pregnancy, and increased divorce rates have emerged in Taiwanese society, influencing the power and status of marriage and the family institution in Taiwan.

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Stuart Gietel-Basten

Chapter 12 focuses on the effects of family planning on fertility in China. The author first reviews the history of Chinese family planning policy from the 1970s through to the implementation of a national two-child policy in 2016. He then deconstructs the notion of an overarching national one-child policy which is the widely held impression of Chinese family planning policy, and takes a more in-depth look at regional patterns of family planning policy and fertility. Next, he presents some evidence that the one-child family may have become normalized in China. In other words, couples who are eligible to have more than child are increasingly choosing to have only one. Finally, he considers other revolutionary changes in Chinese economy and society over the past four decades, and considers how these played a critical role in shaping past and current trends of fertility.