Research Topic

Chinese Only Children: Advantaged or Disadvantaged?

About this Research Topic

China launched the One-Child Policy in 1979 as one of several mechanisms aimed at accelerating China’s economic development in order to become a world leader. The policy continued until 2016 and was implemented most intensely in urban areas, such as Shanghai and Beijing. By 2020, China will have achieved many of its goals, including the attainment of the world’s second largest economy. At the same time, China now has the world’s largest concentration of only children, ranging in age from 4 to 40 years, an outcome of the One-Child Policy. Furthermore, many young Chinese couples are planning to have only one child, even though they are now encouraged to have two children.

From the outset of China’s One-Child policy, the media conveyed worries that Chinese only children would be ‘Little Emperors’ (i.e., egocentric and lazy). However, as only children became the norm over time within classrooms, research suggested that they exhibited many advantaged outcomes, especially in terms of academic achievement. Hundreds of studies have been conducted and the results have been mixed, with some showing that only children possess positive attributes, such as higher levels of creativity and educational attainment. However, the results of other studies demonstrate areas of concern for only children, such as loneliness and narcissism, reflecting disadvantaged outcomes.

This Research Topic aims to address key questions surrounding Chinese only children by curating a collection of Original Research and Review articles that evaluate their psychological, social and other related outcomes. In what ways are they advantaged or disadvantaged, compared to their peers with siblings? Further, how might their potentially distinguishing characteristics benefit or cost China as it advances through the 21st Century? This Research Topic welcomes manuscripts focusing on a wide range of outcomes for Chinese only children, compared to their peers with siblings. The Original Research or Review articles may address this comparison from a variety of perspectives that include, but are not limited to:

• Psychological outcomes such as narcissism, risk-taking, cognitive abilities, and mental health (e.g., loneliness);
• Social outcomes such as educational attainment, marriage and family formation, employment, and political participation;
• Internet engagement of only children (compared to their peers) including social media and Internet gaming;
• Literature reviews about Chinese only children with the goal of developing theory about the effects of growing up in a low-fertility nation on child and adolescent development.

This Topic has been realized in collaboration with Mr. Shengjie Lin, Doctoral Student at the University of Texas at Austin (ORCID iD https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1352-321X).


Keywords: Chinese only children, sibling effects on human development, sibling effects on social and psychological processes and outcomes, only children and mental health, sibling effects on cognition


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

China launched the One-Child Policy in 1979 as one of several mechanisms aimed at accelerating China’s economic development in order to become a world leader. The policy continued until 2016 and was implemented most intensely in urban areas, such as Shanghai and Beijing. By 2020, China will have achieved many of its goals, including the attainment of the world’s second largest economy. At the same time, China now has the world’s largest concentration of only children, ranging in age from 4 to 40 years, an outcome of the One-Child Policy. Furthermore, many young Chinese couples are planning to have only one child, even though they are now encouraged to have two children.

From the outset of China’s One-Child policy, the media conveyed worries that Chinese only children would be ‘Little Emperors’ (i.e., egocentric and lazy). However, as only children became the norm over time within classrooms, research suggested that they exhibited many advantaged outcomes, especially in terms of academic achievement. Hundreds of studies have been conducted and the results have been mixed, with some showing that only children possess positive attributes, such as higher levels of creativity and educational attainment. However, the results of other studies demonstrate areas of concern for only children, such as loneliness and narcissism, reflecting disadvantaged outcomes.

This Research Topic aims to address key questions surrounding Chinese only children by curating a collection of Original Research and Review articles that evaluate their psychological, social and other related outcomes. In what ways are they advantaged or disadvantaged, compared to their peers with siblings? Further, how might their potentially distinguishing characteristics benefit or cost China as it advances through the 21st Century? This Research Topic welcomes manuscripts focusing on a wide range of outcomes for Chinese only children, compared to their peers with siblings. The Original Research or Review articles may address this comparison from a variety of perspectives that include, but are not limited to:

• Psychological outcomes such as narcissism, risk-taking, cognitive abilities, and mental health (e.g., loneliness);
• Social outcomes such as educational attainment, marriage and family formation, employment, and political participation;
• Internet engagement of only children (compared to their peers) including social media and Internet gaming;
• Literature reviews about Chinese only children with the goal of developing theory about the effects of growing up in a low-fertility nation on child and adolescent development.

This Topic has been realized in collaboration with Mr. Shengjie Lin, Doctoral Student at the University of Texas at Austin (ORCID iD https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1352-321X).


Keywords: Chinese only children, sibling effects on human development, sibling effects on social and psychological processes and outcomes, only children and mental health, sibling effects on cognition


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

27 May 2020 Abstract
25 September 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

27 May 2020 Abstract
25 September 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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