Pattern of indulgence in Chinese parenting

The Journal of Social Psychology, 1968, 74, 13-23. CHINESE-AMERICAN CHILD-REARING PRACTICES AND JUVENILE DELINQUENCY* ^- ^ Department of Psychology, Mount Holyoke College RICHARD T . SOLLENBERGER

Bunzel and her co-workers (2) have pointed out that the Chinese baby and young child are never put on a rigid schedule in regard to any biological function. They eat and sleep according to their needs and not according to the clock. The pattern of indulgence is borne out in the interviews and in the daily observations of life in Chinatown.

The lack of concern with bedtime is corroborated by the observation that one sees in Chinese restaurants, even quite late in the evening, families with their small children. This observer, standing on a busy corner one evening, counted 17 small children pass him from 10:30 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. The child is disciplined, but the punishment generally used is withdrawal from the social life of the family, or the deprivation of special privileges or objects, rather than physical punishment. Very rarely, if ever, is the child ridiculed. No mother reported that this form of discipline was used by the father, and very few of the mothers themselves resorted to it. The rather gentle treatment of the first years probably builds up a feeling of security and confidence in the child, which may effectively counteract or reduce the frustrations of rigid discipline later on. The tolerant attitude toward training the young child is best expressed by the statement of Bunzel’s informant: “A child under 3 years does not understand things, at 3 or 4 they understand but forget things quickly, but by 6 years of age their memory for commands and prohibitions is good enough so that demands can be, and are, more rigidly enforced”

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