Post #5 Identifying Obstables in Education Development: Abandoned Children and Moral Deficiency

A success in traditional education may lead to a secure life, with great wealth and a high socio-economic status; fundamentally however, when people cannot understand the underlying meaning of knowledge, it is nearly impossible to achieve the happiness and the freedom of thinking. Understanding moral could help individuals to make the right decisions with a rational thinking, and reduce corruption activities, as well as improve education and economic equality (regarding week 4 blog). This week, I would like to have a brief view on two narrow social issues in China, abandoned children and moral deficiency, and how psychology can aid to explain these behaviors.

One Child Policy: Abandoned Children and the Only Child

While the One Child Policy (OCP) in China has a positive effect on the population control, there are an increasing number of unwanted children reported in China (BBC, 2001), where girls were more likely to be abandoned (Banister, 2004). The environmental perspective of this issue would be that the government sets up a monetary penalty for the birth of each additional child, and it concerns the families with poor financial condition. Those families who have strong gender bias or a disabled child may end up abandoning their children in order to avoid the violation of law and reduce financial problems (Croll, 2002). Nevertheless, it is also essential to understand the psychological explanation accounted for the child abandonment, that why do Chinese families prefer male more than female?

The understanding of Chinese traditional beliefs would provide a general explanation of all this happening, that males are viewed as more valuable and have higher power position relative to females in employment and business (BBC, 2001; Qiao & Suchindran, 2003; Banister, 2004). A psychological concept of Sexism is applicable within this context, that individuals hold prejudice and discrimination against others based on their gender (Deaux & LaFrance, 1998). An example of this would be that Chinese citizens usually think that males are more capable to earn money and support aged parents. Besides, Banister (2004) also reported that this imbalanced sex ratio does not only exist in rural cities, but also in urban cities of China.

Child abandonment is a serious concern aroused by One Child Policy that causes lifelong psychological problems to the abandoned children, and also influences their brain and physical health (Nelson, 2005). There are different contexts of child abandonment, as mentioned above that could be reasoned by the desire of a health child, a male child, or financial problem. Usually abandoned children are brought up in orphanages where they cannot receive enough individual attention for a proper development. Burnstein (1981) proposed a psychological perspective to understand more about abandoned children. Therefore, it was reported that these children are characterised as hyper-sensitive and insecure, and usually this personality is a permanent state.

An emerging body of research consistently reported that child with siblings is more advantageous in comparison with the only child in the childhood development in general. This can be associated with the problems that the children who were born under One Child Policy may have. The latest study from Cameron et al (2013) showed that in China, children growing under OCP are more likely to have higher degree of confidence, with greater sense of security. Yet there is a big disadvantage of this policy, that children do not trust others and are less trustworthy. Carmeron and his colleagues (2013) showed this by having the children participate a trust game and as a result, the children were less likely to give away to others. In term of psychology, this finding of trust reflects the deficiency of Altruism in this generation, in which altruism is defined as a helping behavior specifically when individuals are willing to benefit another individual rather than themselves regardless the cost and personal gain (Baston, 1991). Altruism has a universal value that it improves the happiness, helpfulness and cooperativeness among communities, and therefore enhances creative thinking.

In addition to the downsides of One Child Policy, children are attributed to lower degree of competitiveness, and also higher degree of Risk-averseness and Pessimism. This suggested that individuals with high defensive pessimism would be more likely to be Self-handicapping and have higher likelihood of suicide (Martin et al, 2003; Chang et al, 2013); whereas individuals with high risk-averseness tend to be not creative (Byron, 2009). Besides, Cameron et al (2013) conducted a personality test based on the Big Five Personality Inventory on this group of children, and they found that the children tend to be more Neurotic and less Conscientious.

The Guilt of Fraud: Increased Moral Deficiency and the Understanding to the Problem

Apart from the One Child Policy issue, a serious concern of moral deficiency is aroused in the Chinese community. Lee (2011) from China Hush, reported a news about a two-years-old child being hit by two cars and eighteen people passed by the child with apparent unconcern. This got me thinking: where is the social justice? The hidden story is that some individuals continuously commit fraud through asking for public help in the recent decades. An example of this would be that the criminals pretend to be injured on the street, in order to dissimulate their intentions; when a person stops by to help, they would then claim being hurt by that person and demand compensation. So who wants to be deceived?

When every individual has a fear of being deceived, it increases the effect of bystander effect. Bystander effect refers to the idea that individuals are less likely to help others in emergency situation (Latane & Darley, 1968). The state of apathy in helping others can be explained by social psychological theories: Diffusion of Responsibility, Audience Inhibition and Social Influence (Informational Social Influence). Diffusion of responsibility occurs when individuals assume that the presences of others would allow them to transfer the responsibility and feel less personally responsible to respond to events, where the helpfulness of individuals lowers when each additional individual presents (Latane & Darley, 1968), which can implicitly relate another theory of Social Loafing.

The application of audience inhibition and social influence may provide the most appropriate explanation on the above China news incident. According to Hogg and Vaughan (2008), audience inhibition refers to the presences of others that would emphasize the self-awareness of individuals about an intended action, and individuals attempt to avoid ridicule by acting socially appropriate; whereas informational social influence occurs when individuals require information from another as confirmation of a situation in order to conform. In the context of China news, individuals were uncertain of the ambiguousness of situation (a fraud or a real accident) and they observed that the other individuals also do not react to the incident; therefore the eighteen individuals passed by the injured child assuming that it was a fraud, and did not want to appear foolish by overreacting.

It is possible for a positive relationship between the commitment of fraud and the moral deficiency within the Chinese community. With the purpose of teaching moral education, solving the fraud crimes is a necessary step. In one of the earliest studies, Cressey (1953) proposed a psychological perspective of fraud which involves the process of Rationalization as to reduce the criminal’s inhibition. Usually criminals commit fraud by establishing rational circumstances (excuses) and minimize the perception of guilt or morality from the act. An example of this rationalized fraud would be the victims participating willingly and intentionally into an illegal act (i.e. corruption), and the fraudsters assume that those victims are culpable. Duffield and Grabosky (2001) attempted to give another aspect of the motivation in committing fraud: financial strain. While it is believed that financial strain only relates to economic inequality (poverty), individuals living in a life of affluences can also feel economically deprived when compared to their perceived standard. Therefore, it arouses a concern that individuals may commit fraud and other corruption activities, with the intention of reducing their loss in power and money.

Conclusion

To summarise, the underlying problems of abandoned children and moral deficiency leads to a deeper understanding of the Chinese community. While every policy has its cost-benefit calculation, the implementation of One Child Policy brings along a better source allocation and population control; whereas it also facilitates the problem of abandoned children and has negative impact on the development of the only child. Besides, the growing number of fraud generates a fear of being deceived and increases moral deficiency among the Chinese citizens, which possibly leads them to a wrong judgment of what is morally right or wrong, building up an unhealthy conscience. With the psychological explanations of these social problems, it helps researcher to demonstrate a more elaborate method in designing the teaching curriculum for moral education.

References

  1. Banister, J. (2004). Shortage of Girls in China Today. Journal of Population Research, 21(1), 19-45.
  2. BBC, (2001). China’s unwanted girls. Retrieved from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/1506469.stm
  3. Burnstein, M. H., (1981). Child Abandonment: Historical, Sociological and Psychological Perspectives. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 11(4), 213-221.
  4. Byron, K. (2009). The creative researcher: tools and techniques to unleash your creativity. Retrieved from: http://www.vitae.ac.uk/CMS/files/upload/The_creative_researcher_Dec09.pdf
  5. Cameron, L., Erkal, N., Gangadharan, L., & Meng, X.  (2013). Little Emperors: Behavioral Impacts of China’s One-Child Policy. Science, 339, 953-957.
  6. Chang, E. C., Yu, E. A., Lee, J. Y., Hirsch, J. K., Kupfermann, Y., & Emma, R. K., (2013). Cognitive Therapy and Research, 37(4), 796-804.
  7. Cressey, D. R. (1953). Other People’s Money: A Study in the Social Psychology of Emebezzlement. Free Press, Glencoe, Illinois.
  8. Croll, E., (2002). Fertility decline, family size and female discrimination: a study of reproductive management in East and South Asia. Asia-Pacific Population Journal, 17(2), 11-38.
  9. Deaux, K., & LaFrance, M. (1998). Gender, The Handbook of Social Psychology, 1, 788-827.
  10. Duffield, G., & Grabosky, P. (2001). The Psychology of Fraud: Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice No. 199. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. Retrieved from: http://www.anatomyfacts.com/Research/fraud.pdf
  11. Hogg, M. A., & Vaughan, G. M. (2008). Social Psychology (5th Ed.). England: Pearson Education Limited.
  12. Latane, B., & Darley, J. M. (1968). Group Inhibition of Bystander Intervention in Emergencies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 10, 215-221.
  13. Lee, A., (2011). Moral Deficiency and the Making of Chinese Indifference. Retrieved from: http://www.chinahush.com/2011/10/20/moral-deficiency-and-the-making-of-chinese-indifference/
  14. Martin, A. J., Marsh, H. W., Williamson, A., & Debus, R. L. (2003). Self-handicapping, Defensive Pessimism, and Goal Orientation: A Qualitative Study of University Students. Journal of Educational Psychology. 95(3), 617-628.
  15. Nelson, C. A., (2005). Special Section: Child Abandonment. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 26(5), 475-476.
  16. Qiao, X., & Chirayath, S. (2003). From sex preference of children to its reality: sex ratio at birth and its determinants in China. Poster presented at Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, Minneapolis.
  17. Short, S. E., Zhai, F., Xu, S., & Yang, M. (2001). China’s One-Child Policy and the Care of Children: An Analysis of Qualitative and Quantitative Data. Social Forces, 79(3), 913-943.

3 thoughts on “Post #5 Identifying Obstables in Education Development: Abandoned Children and Moral Deficiency

  1. Attachment theory (Bowlby, 1969) stresses the importance of long-term relationships in order for social and emotional development to occur normally. Maslow (1970) also suggests that children need to be nurtured through social interaction to achieve a level of social competence appropriate for an infant classroom. As you highlighted, these abandoned children suffer from lifelong psychological problems.

    As highlighted in Bethan’s blog, Nurture Groups act to provide caring and loving relationships, and replicate a ‘family’ setting (Nurture Group, 2013). Nurture groups are school based learning environments, designed for students whose difficulties in accessing school learning, is underpinned by an apparent need for social experiences. This intervention acts as a bridge to mainstream school (Cooper & Whitebread, 2007).

    Interventions (such as Nurture Groups) which aim to increase social confidence by building long-term relationships and ultimately increase self confidence, might be a solution to some of the problems that you describe.

    —-
    Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss v. 3 (Vol. 1). Random House.
    Cooper, P., & Whitebread, D. (2007). The effectiveness of nurture groups on student progress: Evidence from a national research study. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 12(3), 171-190.
    http://psp2c0.wordpress.com/
    Nurture Groups (2013). History & Background. Retrieved from:http://www.nurturegroups.org/pages/history-and-background.html

  2. I am writing to reply Louise’s comment, and firstly, thank for reading my blog. You have made a convincing suggestion on using Nurture Group (NG) as an intervention, and I agree that it is applicable for the abandoned children in China in order to provide them a better development. Aside from NG, Mouratidou, Goutza and Chatzopoulos (2007) interestingly found that physical education can improve the moral development. They did it by having high school students to involve in a six-week morality-based intervention in their physical education class. The finding of this research showed that the experimental group achieved a higher degree of moral reasoning after the intervention, in comparison to the control group. Personally, I think this intervention is found in a very innovative way, and further investigation should be done to re-examine the effect of Mouratidou et al’ findings.

    References:
    1. Mouratidou, K., Goutza, S. & Chatzopoulos, D. (2007). Physical Education and Moral Development: An Intervention Programme to Promote Moral Reasoning through Physical Education in High School Students. European Physical Education Review, 13(1), 41-56.

  3. The news has ignited an angry online debate, with Internet users condemning the unequal application of a 1979 law that stipulates every couple may have just one child (or two for ethnic minorities and for rural couples whose first child is a girl). The truth is: for the rich, the law is a paper tiger, easily circumvented by paying a “social compensation fee” — a fine of 3 to 10 times a household’s annual income, set by each province’s family planning bureau, or by traveling to Hong Kong, Singapore or even America to give birth.

    For the poor, however, the policy is a flesh-and-blood tiger with claws and fangs. In the countryside, where the need for extra hands to help in the fields and the deeply entrenched patriarchal desire for a male heir have created strong resistance to population control measures, the tiger has been merciless.According to Chinese Health Ministry data released in March, 336 million abortions and 222 million sterilizations have been carried out since 1971. (Though the one-child policy was introduced in 1979, other, less-stringent family planning policies were in place before it)(Zhu et al, 2005).

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