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.
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.
- Banister, J. (2004). Shortage of Girls in China Today. Journal of Population Research, 21(1), 19-45.
- BBC, (2001). China’s unwanted girls. Retrieved from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/1506469.stm
- Burnstein, M. H., (1981). Child Abandonment: Historical, Sociological and Psychological Perspectives. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 11(4), 213-221.
- 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
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- 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.
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- 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
- Hogg, M. A., & Vaughan, G. M. (2008). Social Psychology (5th Ed.). England: Pearson Education Limited.
- Latane, B., & Darley, J. M. (1968). Group Inhibition of Bystander Intervention in Emergencies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 10, 215-221.
- 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/
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- Nelson, C. A., (2005). Special Section: Child Abandonment. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 26(5), 475-476.
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