Chinese Families: Tradition, Modernisation, and Change: Volume 16

Cover of Chinese Families: Tradition, Modernisation, and Change

Table of contents

(12 chapters)

Purpose: Premarital cohabitation has increased dramatically in China in the last few decades. Past studies have suggested that education is positively associated with premarital cohabitation in China, but how this association changes over time when cohabitation grows from a marginal phenomenon to a popular choice remains unknown. This chapter investigates the changes in the association between education and premarital cohabitation among married individuals in post-reform China.

Design/methodology/approach: Using pooled data from the China Family Panel Studies (2010–2016), logistic regressions are carried out to compare the association between education and premarital cohabitation across three marriage cohorts: 1981–1992, 1993–2001, and 2002–2016.

Findings: Results show that opposite to trends in many Western countries, the positive association between education and premarital cohabitation has not decreased but instead strengthened over time in China. This trend is more consistent for women than men.

Research limitations/implications: The pathways through which education influences cohabitation have not been examined. Moreover, the scope of this research is limited to married individuals and does not include cohabiting experiences that do not lead to marriage. Future research may address this issue when such data become available.

Originality/value: This chapter for the first time examines how the association between education and premarital cohabitation changes over time across different marriage cohorts and whether the diffusion process has happened like what has been observed in Western countries. The findings suggest that China is developing different patterns and trends of demographic changes because of its unique institutional and cultural context.


This study examines the extent to which educational outcomes are transmitted from mothers to daughters in rural China. An analysis of the 2010 China Family Panel Survey reveals that: (i) how far daughters go in their education is strongly associated with their mothers’ education; (ii) the association between mothers’ and daughters’ educational outcomes in rural China was found to be stronger than the corresponding relationships between mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, and fathers and sons, especially at higher levels of education; and (iii) while having more brothers and being born later worsens daughters’ educational outcomes, mothers’ higher education effectively mitigates these negative effects. These findings add to a growing body of literature and empirical evidence that challenges conventional social mobility research paradigms that neglect mothers’ roles. More importantly, the distinction between mother–daughter relationship and that between fathers and daughters and mothers and sons highlights the fact that education is likely transmitted intergenerationally via mechanisms that differ depending on the gendered parent–child pairs.


Past studies on housework and marital studies seldom considered the possible endogeneity between these two factors. This chapter analyses data of the Women’s Status Survey 2010 to investigate the association between satisfaction with family status and housework participation in dual-earner married couples in China. The authors examine the association by ordinary least squares (OLS) regression models and structural equation models (SEM), taking into account of time constraints, economic resources and other demographic characteristics. Results suggest that both men and women are less satisfied with their family status if they share more housework than their partners, after controlling for household income, relative economic contribution, educational qualifications and other factors. Moreover, relative housework contribution is associated more consistently and significantly with satisfaction with family status than absolute housework time. In SEM, the authors include a correlated error term between housework time and satisfaction in the models to take endogeneity between these factors into account. For both urban men and women, relative contribution of housework, but not absolute time of housework, is still negatively associated with family status satisfaction.


Women perform the majority of household labour in many families around the world. However, the unequal division of household labour does not lead to dissatisfaction among women. In the present study, the author introduced the intergenerational household assistance to understand married women’s and men’s satisfaction with division of household labour in China, in addition to three major theoretical perspectives in studies of western families (i.e., relative resources, time availability, and gender role ideology). Logistic regression analyses on a nationally representative dataset (the Second Wave Survey of Chinese Women’s Social Status) were performed to study this topic. Consistent with studies in the West, the results show that relative resources, time availability, and gender ideology were associated with married Chinese women’s satisfaction, while married Chinese men’s satisfaction was only associated with time availability (the household labour done by them and their wives). Importantly, married women with parents-in-law’s household assistance tend to be more satisfied than those with help from their parents. The findings demonstrate that Chinese marriages are intertwined with intergenerational relationships and suggest that it is important to take into account of the influence of intergenerational relationships in studies of Chinese marriages.


Purpose: This study investigates how couple similarity in various aspects affects their life satisfaction and how these impacts vary across educational groups among the young married couples in Shanghai.

Methodology: This study employs the pooled data from three waves of the Fudan Yangtze River Delta Social Transformation Survey which sampled Shanghai youths born between 1980 and 1989, the first single-child generation. Couple similarity is evaluated through the comparison in age, hukou status, education, and income quartile between the husband and wife. Ordered logistic regression model is applied to assess the impacts of couple similarity on life satisfaction.

Findings: Marriage hypergamy in age, education, and income barely have any impacts on couples’ life satisfaction, while hukou comparison, as an important indication of social stratification in Shanghai, is strongly associated with life satisfaction. The couple in which husband holds the urban hukou and wife rural hukou as well as the couple in which both partners hold the urban hukou are significantly happier than those in which both partners hold the rural hukou. Such a positive impact is partially explained by the higher husband’s decision-making power in male-advantaged families. Moreover, husband’s urban hukou status is especially important for those without college education, but not for those with college education.

Values: This chapter highlights the importance of hukou hypergamy in life satisfaction for married couples, in particular, lower-educated couples in Shanghai. These findings reveal an implicit but persistent preference for male-dominated family model, where husbands retain a higher decision-making power that, in turn, promotes life satisfaction for both partners.


Purpose. This chapter explored the effects of egalitarian gender attitudes and routine housework on subjective well-being among older adults in China.

Design/methodology/approach. Data were drawn from the Third Wave Survey on the Social Status of Women in China (2010). The sample included 1,260 older adults aged 63–95, consisted of 428 urban respondents and 832 rural respondents, among which included 638 men and 622 women. Stratified linear regression models were used to examine the effects of egalitarian gender attitudes and routine housework on subjective well-being among urban–rural and gender subsamples.

Findings. The results indicated that egalitarian gender attitudes were positively related to subjective well-being. Routine housework was still gendered work in both urban and rural places in China. Routine housework predicted better subjective well-being only among rural women. There were significant differences in egalitarian gender attitudes and the division of housework between urban and rural samples.

Originality/value. Gender egalitarian attitudes and the division of housework in China were patterned not only by genders but also by the urban–rural division. Different from previous studies, housework did not have influence on subjective well-beings, except a positive association among rural women in the sample.


If husbands do more housework, would it improve fertility intentions in Taiwan? Using the Taiwan Panel Study of Family Dynamics, the authors examine the association between heterosexual husbands’ housework participation on their own and wives’ fertility intentions, according to the expectations of the post-transitional (occurring after the Second Demographic Transition) reversal in fertility rates and the gender revolution framework. This analysis shows that the effects are evident among Taiwanese heterosexual women but not men, who appear to lag behind on the gender revolution. Overall results show that more involvement in housework from husbands increases the fertility intentions among wives but does not increase their own fertility intentions.


This study adopts a narrative approach to understanding women’s life experiences from a feminist perspective. How Taiwanese women of different generations have lived their lives and what has and has not changed was investigated through a gender lens. The narrators include the author and her grandmother, born in 1975 and 1927, respectively. They each re-experience and reconfirm the markings of their pasts, psychological conditions, and bodies through deep dialogue. The two stories span approximately 50 years and manifest the patriarchal culture in Taiwanese society at different times.

This study finds that although the stories of these two women from different generations appear distinct in their own way, similar ‘dilemmas’ can be observed in their gender experiences: for example, women get married to men’s family; the value system of lineage and succession creates a tendency to expect to have boys; women need to get married to get their status recognition; and through home, women learn gender roles and gender norms.

However, the study shows progress: women’s education brings economic independence and yields a sense of accomplishment from work or school; women of different generations have different perceptions during the awakening of gender consciousness. The current findings contribute to understanding the working principles of gender relations, which reinforce the patriarchal system despite its appearance changing over time.


Purpose – This chapter aims to explore the strategies used by the Hong Kong government to respond to the adult worker model and the male-breadwinner model; and to explore the views of women on the desirability of these strategies. The male-breadwinner model posits that men work full-time outside the home and women take on domestic work. The adult worker model suggests that women and men should be equally expected to participate in formal employment.

Design/methodology/approach – This chapter analyses the policy measures used by the Hong Kong government to support women in their participation in formal employment and the local work-based pension scheme (the Mandatory Provident Fund) as well as other policy measures that offer potential for enabling family care providers to accumulate resources for secure retirement. Additionally, it draws on semi-structured interviews with 30 Hong Kong young women to examine their views on the extent to which the government supports them to save pension incomes.

Findings – This study shows that the Hong Kong government uses a ‘weak action strategy’ to respond to the adult worker model and the male-breadwinner model, and that this strategy fails to meet women’s diverse preferences for their roles in the labour market and the family.

Originality/value – Based on a newly developed framework, this study examines the responses made by the government to both the male-breadwinner model and the adult worker model. It sheds new insights into possible ways of assisting women to achieve secure retirement .


Attitudes and beliefs towards marriage and family held by Chinese and American college students were compared in this study. The primary dimensions included whether to marry, age to marry, number of desired children, age to have children, perceptions of divorce, willingness to cohabit, openness to blended marriages, and gender roles within marriage. If a global convergence of cultures is occurring, then similarities should be found throughout the views of all respondents towards the institution of marriage. Dissimilarities in views could be interpreted as evidence of the entrenchment and uniqueness of culture, an outcome advanced by those who question cultural homogenisation. Hundreds of college students in several large universities in China and one regional university in the United States were surveyed at convenience. The Chinese students were found to prefer marrying and to plan having children a year later in age compared to the Americans. They also desired having nearly one fewer total number of children on average compared to the Americans. Surprisingly, the Chinese were more agreeable with divorce. The Americans were more likely to support gender equality within marriage and to accept blended types of marriage. Both groups equally approved of the overall idea of couples cohabiting if they plan on marrying. However, the Americans were far more willing to say that they themselves would cohabit. Visions of the benefits of married life were similar across countries. Overall, far more significant differences were found than no differences. The results suggest that elements of marriage norms in the world’s largest economies are somewhat constrained by social forces in their ability to completely converge.

Cover of Chinese Families: Tradition, Modernisation, and Change
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Book series
Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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