China’s Only Children in Marital Crisis
by Alexandra Lahoud
In a June 8, 2016 article in Daily Mail, Tracy You discusses the increased divorce rates in China amongst couples born in the 1980’s. Individuals aged 25 to 34 years old were the first to grow up after the implementation of the one-child family policy in China. Studies show that 40 percent of divorce cases in China’s Fujian Province involve these “post-80s” couples.
What is contributing to increased divorce rates in China? Similar to newlyweds worldwide, Chinese newlyweds experience pressure from careers, stresses from parents and in-laws, and strains from child-rearing. In particular, Tracy explains the immense influence that parents have had on post-80s couples in China. Shortly after their wedding day, and especially after the birth of a new grandchild, grandparents interfere in the family life of their children. As a result, tension between young families and parents arise, disrupting new marriages. According to the 2016 Shaanxi Social Blue Book, 50 percent of post-80s couples have divorced their spouses, whereas the divorce rate for couples born in the 70s and 90s is 36 percent.
Another factor only mentioned briefly in the article is the phenomenon of an entire generation that has grown up largely without siblings. While only children can certainly become generous, mature adults, the presence of siblings in the home gives children a built-in opportunity to learn virtues that are important for marriage, such as looking out for another’s good, sharing, and working together.
To conclude, Tracy suggests that the strong and sometimes negative influence of parents on newlyweds seems to be contributing to inflated divorce rates. A Shanghai family solicitor claimed that “when grandparents help look after a baby, friction becomes more common due to the different views in child-raising between the two generations.” Perhaps differences in child-rearing is at the root of conflict between post-80s couples and their parents. Nonetheless, individuals between the ages of 25 and 34 are marrying later in life and divorcing more frequently than any other previous generation. As a result, the traditional nuclear family has become increasingly less common in China.
About the author
Currently studying theology and psychology at Saint Vincent College, Alexandra Lahoud is an intern for the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth at the USCCB.