Chinese Children Suffer High Levels of Neglect, Abuse


2003-11-21
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Physical, emotional neglect stems from high-pressure lifestyle: report

Almost one-third of children living in China's major cities show signs of physical or emotional neglect, a recent survey has found, with experts blaming high-pressure lifestyles as the country struggles to develop.

According to a survey carried out in 25 Chinese cities by the International Symposium on Preventing Child Abuse, as many as 28% of children showed symptoms of neglect. A sample of 1,163 families with children between three and six years old was surveyed, using family pediatricians as an information source.

The rate of neglect among single-parent families was highest, with boys exhibiting the strongest evidence of physical and emotional neglect, the survey found.

"According to traditional Chinese culture, parents pay more attention to boys, but the social role of boys is defined differently from that of girls," U.S.-based education expert Wu Fang told RFA. "Boys are supposed to be brave and strong, and shouldn't cry. They are expected to find ways to solve problems independently."

The survey was reported extensively in the Xi'an Evening News , which said the Chinese survey was the first of its kind to make its findings public — ; previous international studies of child neglect have been generated for the last 30 years. International standards had defined child neglect as an act of omission by the child's parent that results in some physical or mental injury to the child. It consists of physical neglect, emotional neglect, educational neglect, neglect of health and safety, and social neglect.

The survey found emotional neglect, defined as the failure of the parent to communicate or play with the child, was most common with Chinese families. "Parents may have spent time with their child, but they have failed to meet his or her emotional needs. For instance, the parents do not play or read with the child," Wu said.

"Instead, they supervise the child playing the piano or violin, do sums or do homework. And they demand that the child do well in all these areas. This is tantamount to emotional abuse, not merely emotional neglect," she added.

Former Chinese schoolteacher and mother Mo Li, now living in Sweden, said schoolchildren and their parents are subject to almost intolerable pressure to achieve by competition for opportunity, and by the schools. There is little time for fun or rest.

"My child was six years old when he was in China, and he had to go to school with a big, heavy bag on his back," Mo said. "If the number grade a student got on a subject was lower than 95, the teacher would summon the parents to school and lecture them... Under such circumstances children are denied a happy childhood."

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