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Preference for sons: past and present.

Authors
  • Li, D
Type
Published Article
Journal
China population today
Publication Date
Oct 01, 1997
Volume
14
Issue
5
Pages
15–16
Identifiers
PMID: 12293427
Source
Medline
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

This brief article discusses the present and past preference for sons in China. The preference for sons is rooted in feudal views that men are superior to women. Preference for sons dates back to the Warring States Period, in about 500 B.C. Clan brotherhoods of men have existed for centuries. Historical records mention the practice of female infanticide. Patriarchal families believed that women were economically dependent on men and thus became their subjects. Daughters married, lived in their husband's home, and did not carry the responsibility of caring for their own parents. Couples with only daughters would seek a son-in-law to support them in old age. Rural families with no sons were looked down upon. Sons were expected to carry on the family lineage, increase the reputation of the family, and protect the family's interests. The lack of sons was a sign of humiliation and a curse. The founding of the People's Republic of China brought changes to son preference. The government attempted to increase women's status. In rural areas, women were given equal access to the land. Job opportunities were created for women during the industrialization drive. The Chinese government encouraged the repudiation of the negative impacts of the doctrines of Confucius and Mencius. Efforts were made to give men and women equal pay for equal work. Legislation was passed prohibiting arranged marriage, polygyny, and early marriage. A side effect of fertility decline is the renewed preference for sons. In Huangyan and Haining in Zhejiang, a developed province, the sex ratio at birth is normal. Sexual division of labor reinforces son preference.

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