Handbook on the Family and Marriage in China
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Handbook on the Family and Marriage in China

Edited by Xiaowei Zang and Lucy X. Zhao

This Handbook advances research on the family and marriage in China by providing readers with a multidisciplinary and multifaceted coverage of major issues in one single volume. It addresses the major conceptual, theoretical and methodological issues of marriage and family in China and offers critical reflections on both the history and likely progression of the field.
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Chapter 10: Marriage squeeze and mate selection in China

Lisa Eklund and Isabelle Attané


Chapter 10 reviews existing studies on mate selection in China in the context of a marriage squeeze, identifying different theoretical perspectives on sex ratios and mate selection. It deploys three theoretical lenses in analysing and furthering the understanding of how sex ratio imbalance and subsequent marriage squeezes impact upon mate selection: the demographic opportunity thesis, the sex ratio theory, and the institutional approach. They centre around three main themes of: (1) mate selection for marriage purposes; (2) non-marital mate selection; and (3) strategies that men subject to a marriage squeeze deploy, as well as some consequences of these strategies. It suggests that scholars can merge the sex ratio theory with an institutional approach to understand the marriage squeeze and mate selection in China. For example, the sex ratio theory posits that in high sex ratio societies, norms surrounding family and marriage are becoming more conservative and male-centric, and norms governing women’s sexuality and behaviour are becoming more controlling due to men’s structural power. Therefore, in the absence of a marriage squeeze, and a growing concern of being subject to one, it is possible that there would have been a reduction in marriage rates, a further delay in marriage, even higher divorce rates, and possibly more liberated sexual behavior than is currently the case, even though as demonstrated here there is a positive relation between sex ratios and premarital and multi-partnered sex among women. This argument is possibly a potential reason for Chinese marriage rates and age at first marriage not following similar patterns to other low-fertility countries in East Asia.

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