February 11, 2010

CHINA: 49.9% of families depend on the grandparents for childcare

BEIJING, China / All China Women's Federation / Report from Shanghai / February 11, 2010

Shanghai: Report on Grandparent Childcare

Chinese traditional culture and family structure has been changing. Generations of grandparents have provided childcare, and this trend has become a major part of the education of families.

This trend is directly related to the development of children and families and even the health of the China's population. Shanghai Women's Federation and relevant departments did a survey on the issue covering 2,000 three-generation families in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.

The survey showed that 49.9% of families depended on the grandparents for childcare, 46.3% of the parents took care of their children themselves and 3.8% would have someone else attend their children. It also found that grandparents had more say in deciding what their grandchildren ate.

Two thirds of families said they had disagreements over childcare. In forming children's eating habits, the differences of opinion mainly lied in nutritional knowledge, methods and attitudes. In ensuring children's healthy eating, they usually argued about the type of food, the child's appetite and eating patterns.

The survey showed 38.5% of young parents gained knowledge about nutrition from experts and books, and 22.2% learned through communication with friends. While 57.4% of grandparents said they learned from the older generations and 18.4% depended on their own experience.

Many young parents had limited time to be with their children due to their work schedule and 54.6% of them spent less than three hours a day with their children. Unfortunately, 85.9% of the children were eager for more time to play with their parents.

Survey Analysis

Progress—Multiple Sources of Nutritional Knowledge

Nearly 80% of grandparents learned about nutrition through their own practice and traditional experience. Not relying on tradition, one fourth of young parents obtained knowledge from the Internet, books and expert opinions. Despite limited time and energy to take care of children, the ideas about childcare younger generations had were usually more scientific and rational.

Dilemma—Young Parents' Self-realization and Their Children's Growth

Both the hope for self-realization and the healthy growth of their children were considered important to young parents in the survey. Under the current severe employment situation, they would like to put more effort in at work if the grandparents were able to provide childcare. However, the seemingly perfect pattern may cause a lack of parent-child communication and have a negative influence on the children's future development.

Attention—How Only-child Parents Conceptualize Family

China's first only-child generation has grown up to be parents. They were accustomed to being taken care of by their parents and had less understanding of their responsibilities to rearing children. Some of them were not even ready when they had a child. The survey indicated that grandparents had become a major force in the raising of their grandchildren. Many young parents even sent their children to the grandparents' only to visit on the weekends. In some communities, you often see grandparents playing with grandchildren and hardly ever see young parents.

Points and Suggestions

Firstly, the survey suggested advocating healthy and science-based ideas while working to eliminate differences between the two generations on feeding children; and to do this through media guidance, professional advice, community information networks and inter-generation communication.

Secondly, the survey promoted flexible working schedules to relieve work-family related conflict. It suggested that governments should encourage young parent employees have staggered working hours or provide paid parent-child holidays for female workers with children under three years of age.

Thirdly, the survey called for increased parent-child education to ensure children's healthy development. The current parent-child training courses were usually attended by mothers and children. It encouraged more participation of fathers and grandparents.

Fourthly, young parents should fully understand family responsibilities and keep a balance between career and family. [rc]

Source: women.org.cn / Translated by womenofchina.cn