Thursday, November 5, 2009

In China, Who Adopts Girls & Why?

Domestic Adoption of Female Children in Contemporary Rural China, by Weiguo Zhang, is a terrifically informative research paper on domestic adoption (mostly informal adoption) and attitudes toward girls in rural China:

Data for the current paper were collected in three separate studies between 1992 and 2004. In 1992–93, I examined adoption behavior among 21 adoptive families in a north China village within the context of market reforms and the one-child policy.

In 2001, I organized a survey on adoption in rural China in Hebei, Henan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hunan and Fujian. Information was collected from 425 adoptive families, with the major results presented elsewhere.30 I also interviewed an additional 20 adoptive families, as well as people who had knowledge of adoption among their kin, neighbors and friends. Informal interviews on adoption continued during my fieldwork in rural North China in 2002, 2003 and 2004. In total, I have
information about adoption from 668 adoptive families located in many parts of rural China.

Attitudinal changes concerning girls are nicely summed up in this paragraph:

Society in general is changing, and new patterns of family relationships are emerging. Married daughters now easily return to their natal families to offer help, while many adult sons leave the villages to earn money in urban areas. Further, the traditional family structure is changing to one where the elderly have little authority within the family, and where the once-central relationship between father and son is giving way to increasingly intimate conjugal relations between husband and wife. The old saying, “having sons for old age security,” is being replaced by a new saying, “yang nü fang lao, yang er song zhong,” which literally means that daughters are brought up to provide old-age security while sons are brought up to send parents off at the end of life (that is, to pay for burial costs and perform various burial rituals). A man from Anhui used this saying to explain why he adopted a girl from his wife’s natal village in 1988. A man from Hebei remarked, “Yang er hao ting; yang nü hao ming”, meaning that it sounds good when one has a son, but life is actually better when one has a daughter. This is supported by cases in which parents give up one of their sons for adoption in order to adopt a girl. A couple from Shanghang County, Fujian Province, for example, adopted out their third son before adopting a 20-month-old girl in September 1997.
Published in the China Journal at Australia National University in 2006, it's a must-read for adoptive parents of Chinese kids. It's very easy to read -- more so than many research papers! Thanks to kantmakm at adopttalkcanada forum for the link.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

I am so glad that NEWER information is emerging, so many people are caught up in the old mindset (AP's that is) and will not see that the circumstances may be very different than what the agencies are still pushing--preference for boys, etc.

For instance, M's foster mother lives back with her natal family with her two sisters and brother, her son also helps to support that family, not her husband's. Also, her extended foster family (friends) mostly have daughter's--two with sons. They are viewed equally and are sent to school and have college planned just as the sons, one is in college currently. There are also two girls adopted from among our "small" circle of China family (not really small at all, but in terms of the country obviously)-- one was a foster child and the other informal adoption. Times are changing and rapidly.

Her first family is raising her younger sister (rural village life), they did not choose to raise her due to her limb difference. For most it is not a matter of boys and girls (recent studies, personal experiences, and interviewing of my own has shown that); that being said, there is a long way to go in terms of children with differences. Superstition dies hard among old and young.

Due to changing circumstances among families and national attitudes it is imperative that the demand side of adoption be terminated in the large numbers of the past, the supply will continue to be created otherwise. SN adoptions should not and most likely, will not end soon. There is a need, there are not people in China waiting in line for them as they are for "nsn" children--not true in all cases however (M's foster mother wanted to adopt her but they would not allow it due to her limb difference).

As AP's we must stay current of the situation in China and act accordingly (by not perpetuating the myths or old ideals and continuing to support the end of adoptions that are created for the sake of demand). Our children deserve the truths that existed at the time they were made available for adoption, but also the changing attitudes in their birth country today.