Young Chinese parents and "baby engagements"

October 25, 2010 | Posted by Vicky

Young parents in China today increasingly are looking to help their children overcome the challenges of being an only child. "Baby engagement" is a way to help young children and their families make friends.

For centuries in China, "baby engagement" was a term synonymous with arranged marriage -- and therefore is now prohibited. However, the term is becoming widely popular again among young parents born after 1980 -- but it now has different meaning. Young parents in China today will tell you that they "aim at making friends only, not marriage” -- meaning their real purpose is to find a companion for the only child in the family.

Ways to engage a baby

One friend who is pregnant told me that before she became a mother herself, she had already engaged several babies while volunteering in the pregnant women’s club. She and her husband believe that people placed great hope and good wishes upon the baby by doing this.

Besides parents-to-be who socialize in clubs, many young parents who post baby photos on the web, recruiting "children-in-law" in a big way. Through their high standards of selection, young parents at times may seem very serious about this!

What is the appeal of "baby engagement"?

The roots of modern "baby engagement" are found in the fact that nearly all young parents in China today are single children themselves. Young parents today are therefore eager to help their children -- who are single children themselves -- make friends. Young parents believe that if they can get along well with a nearby family, then everyone can have more fun. Moreover, they hope their kids will learn how to get along with friends and how to take care of others.

Not everyone agrees

Despite this growing phenomenon, not all of the young parents agree with "baby engagement." An investigation from Chinese website Sina.com reports that 33% of young parents approved of "baby engagement," while 42% said they were not sure about it. The report also says that experts suggest not to overtly interfere with children making friends -- meaning it is okay to guide a child's friend-making process, but it's better to not have a direct hand in it.

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