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Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Gardiner, Rita A.


This study examines the impact of traditional Chinese culture and the diverse social backgrounds of parents on their gender-specific expectations for their children in China, particularly in the post-one-child policy era. This study conducted qualitative interviews with six parents in Beijing, who have both sons and daughters and represent diverse gender and socioeconomic backgrounds. Though the study findings reveal parental ambivalence in raising children according to traditional gender roles, the systematic and pervasive nature of the traditional culture within families continues to prioritize boys, resulting in ongoing disadvantages for daughters. This research emphasizes the importance of addressing the challenges that girls encounter within the Chinese family setting. These challenges include systematic sexism and gender stereotypes, inequitable distribution of household responsibilities, the objectification and discrimination of women in traditional marriage and family dynamics, as well as the perpetuation of sexism through classism and class-based oppression.

Summary for Lay Audience

In recent years, gender equity has made great progress in China, with the increase in female’s access to education being regarded as a signifier of improvement in gender parity. This shift is particularly obvious in China, where the media constantly points to the fact women outnumber men in higher education to prove women and men are already equal. However, most people focus on gender equity in public arenas, such as access to education and job opportunities, but do not explore gender equity in families, thus a nuanced understanding of girls’ experiences in contemporary Chinese families is lacking.

Focusing on the gender perspectives and gender-specific expectations of Chinese parents with more than one child following the official end of the one-child policy in China, this study asks: In what way does traditional Chinese culture influence parental gender-specific expectations of children? How do parents’ social identities and status influence the gender-specific expectations they have of their children? This study positions the voices of urban and rural Chinese parents as its sources of knowledge. Specifically, six parents from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds in Beijing were asked for their perspectives and lived realities based on their different social identities.

Through critical and intersectional analyses of the interviews, the study reveals the persistent and systematic prejudice against girls and women in Chinese families, as well as the lack of support from the government. This study presents the realities of Chinese girls in families, profoundly influenced by the gender hierarchies of traditional Chinese culture and their family backgrounds. In this presentation, it unravels the myth of “gender equity” in China by unveiling the hidden injustices and biases within families. Additionally, it is hoped that this study’s findings and recommendations will increase awareness among Chinese parents of the effect of culture on gender expectations. This, in turn, may enable families to become better advocates for gender equity and improved fairness for Chinese girls. Furthermore, through investigating the impact of individual’s diverse social identities on gender perspectives in the Chinese context, this study aims to contribute to the advancement of social justice and gender equity.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.