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Dublin: 14°C Thursday 28 October 2021

China's 'One Child' policy produces more risk-averse adults: study

Australian studies have concluded that children born in China’s sibling-free culture are less risky and less entrepreneurial.

Kindergarten teachers play with children during an outdoor activity at the Ritan Park in Beijing.
Kindergarten teachers play with children during an outdoor activity at the Ritan Park in Beijing.
Image: Andy Wong/AP

CHINA’S CONTROVERISAL ‘one child’ policy produces grownups who lack entrepreneurial drive and the willingness to take risks, a new study has concluded.

“Our data show that people born under the one child policy were less likely to be in more risky occupations like self-employment,” said Lisa Cameron, one of the lead researchers on the study published in the journal Science.

“There may be implications for China in terms of a decline in entrepreneurial ability,” the Australian scientist added.

The study compared adults born just before and after the one child policy was put in place in 1979. It aimed to measure social skills such as trust and risk-taking.

Researchers conducted a series of economic games with more than 400 subjects.

They found that those who were only children as a result of China’s one child policy grew up to be adults who were “significantly less trusting, less trustworthy, more risk-averse, less competitive, more pessimistic, and less conscientious,” a press release announcing the findings said.

Cameron said researchers observed the negative effects of being an only child in China even if there was significant social contact with other children while growing up.

“We found that greater exposure to other children in childhood – for example, frequent interactions with cousins and/or attending childcare – was not a substitute for having siblings,” she said.

And they said the results could not be explained by other factors, such as participants’ age and whether they might have become more capitalistic over time.

The research was gathered by Cameron, along with her colleague Lata Gangadharan – both from Monash University – along with Xin Meng of the Australian National University and Nisvan Erkal from the University of Melbourne.

The study was published as the Chinese government considers relaxing its one child policy, which was introduced as a part of an effort to curb population growth.

An official report in 2011 estimated that some 400 million births have been prevented as a result of the measure.

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