Personality Change in China’s Single Children

Evidence from a new study published in Science suggests that the One Child Policy in China is negatively affecting the personality of new generations. It claims that single children born under the policy are less trustworthy and trusting of others, more risk-aversive and pessimistic, less competitive and less conscientious.

The OCP (One Child Policy), introduced in 1979, is one of the stricter initiatives used to restrict population growth. Breaking of the law has even lead to sterilisation and forced abortion, but the policy has been praised by the Chinese government for bringing countless families out of poverty [2]. In countryside villages parents are not limited in the number of children they choose to have as the policy only affects China’s cities. Nevertheless, there are circumstances in which a city-living couple may have more than one child, such as in the case of a severely disabled first child or families of ethnic minorities.

Professors at Monash University, the Australian National University and the University of Melbourne aimed to look into the impact of the OCP on personal characteristics of the new Chinese generations, such as altruism, trust, trust-worthiness, risk attitudes and competitiveness. Prof. Lisa Cameron and colleagues compared the data of 421 participants from Beijing in two cohorts: one of individuals born in 1975 or 1978, just before the one child policy was introduced, and the other of individuals born in 1980 or 1983, just after the policy.  Continue reading