The Intergenerational Transmission of the Value of Children in Contemporary Chinese Families: Taiwan and Mainland China Compared

Chin-Chun Yi, Yu-Hua Chen


While fertility has been drastically declining in East Asia, mechanisms accounting for the current trend vary. One noticeable mechanism documented is that the changing value of children affects couples’ fertility decisions which in turn affect their subsequent fertility behaviour. This study will examine the intergenerational transmission of the value of children (VOC) among grandmothers, mothers and teenagers in two Chinese societies: Taiwan and Mainland China. We assume that cultural homogeneity interacts with political and social heterogeneity and may result in different values regarding having or not having children. Data are taken from two corresponding VOC surveys from Taiwan (2005-2007) and from Mainland China (2002-2003). We first compare the value of children for Taiwan and Mainland China with special attention to cultural aspects. Two identified factor solutions are generated for both positive (traditional and emotional) and negative (emotional/psychological and familial/social) VOC. Analyses show that intergenerational transmission of the VOC among three generations is more likely to occur for a positive VOC in the Chinese Mainland sample. We suspect that actual fertility experience results in greater resemblance on the VOC between grandmothers and mothers in both research settings. Among selected structural mechanisms, only rural-urban background has an effect on patterns of intergenerational transmission. The paper ends with a discussion on the importance of culture in explaining the intergenerational transmission of the VOC in Chinese societies.


Value of children; Intergenerational transmission; Taiwanese fertility values; Chinese fertility values

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