Chinese Childbearing Decision-Making in Mainland China in the Post-One-Child-Policy Era

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In 2016, China enacted its two-child policy, further lifted to a three-child policy in 2021, in response to low birth rates and imbalanced sex ratios resulting from the almost 40-year one-child policy. Despite this, China's birthrate is at a historic low as fewer parents are having children. Now more than ever, inductive explorations are needed to understand what motivates Chinese parents to have first and second children in the post-one-child policy era, particularly explorations that situate individual decision-making within the larger social context. Individual and relational choices occur in larger sociopolitical contexts. Understanding these “personal” actions involves considering how micro and macro processes inform each other. In this study, we elicited qualitative responses from Chinese mothers (N = 117) with two children in early childhood (firstborn ≤8 years old) from Liao Ning province. Most mothers were well educated, employed, and married to children's fathers. Using inductive thematic analysis procedures, we coded qualitative responses about the factors that motivated mothers to have first and second children. Our data revealed that (a) mothers expressed different reasons for having firstborns compared to secondborns, and (b) decision-making occurred against a backdrop of interacting micro-level and macro-level influences (e.g., cultural norms, national policy changes). In particular, mothers described the decision to have secondborns as more deliberative than with firstborns, considering long-term benefits siblinghood and shared demands of elderly caregiving. If efforts to stimulate the national birthrate are likely to succeed, policymakers should consider micro-level as well as macro-level factors that shape mothers' childbearing decision-making.


This article was originally published as Su-Russell, C., & Sanner, C. (2022). Chinese childbearing decision making in mainland China in the post-one-child-policy era. Family Process. (Early View). https://doi.org/10.1111/famp.12772.