What influences young people's willingness to have children?

College students carry out social research to accurately recognize and confront fertility problems

Youthful trends

A few days ago, the dialogue between Japanese feminist scholar Chizuko Ueno and three female students who graduated from Peking University for many years attracted the attention of netizens, and her exchange with Peking University professor Dai Jinhua also caused widespread discussion among women. With the adjustment of Chinese policies in recent years, young people's conception of fertility has begun to become the focus of attention from all walks of life.

Against this backdrop, several Zhejiang University of Technology students completed a social research project to explore young people's truest wishes to marry and have children.

They found that unmarried people's focus on fertility is mainly on hidden social issues, such as women's rights. The focus of married and childbearing groups is mainly on social competitive pressures. The students in the research group said that through this year-long research, their biggest gain is that they have thought more about marriage and childbearing.

Use summer vacation field visits to investigate the fertility intentions of young people

Starting from January 2022, a research team composed of 1 students first distributed more than 8,1500 questionnaires to the whole country, mainly college students and young people, and the questionnaires investigated the four stages of love, marriage, childbirth and parenting.

After the questionnaire was collected, from the overall situation, young people's willingness to have children was not high. Therefore, the research group asked a question: After the introduction of some policies to promote fertility in recent years, has there been any change in young people's willingness to have children?

With questions, the research team conducted in-depth interviews with more than 80 people. Respondents were divided into three categories, the first of which was based on unmarried, married, and childbearing; The second category is divided according to old age, middle age, and youth; The third category is to compare the situation between China and the United Kingdom.

Instructor Zhou Qiong said that the United Kingdom was chosen for comparison because there have been relatively short-term study abroad programs in the UK in recent years, and there are many Chinese girls who have studied in the UK.

In addition to in-depth interviews, the group members also used the summer vacation to conduct offline field visits, where they went into the family planning work of the community streets, interviewed kindergarten principals and primary school principals, and learned about the operation of the maternity and children's hospital. I hope to learn a practical problem: whether the state is gradually improving its fertility policy and welfare will help young people to marry and have children.

These visits are difficult but meaningful for students who have not yet left school. The difficulty lies mainly in the limited time and energy of students, who have to complete research outside of school hours, and many interviews can only constantly adjust the time and interviewee.

Whether it is a questionnaire or an offline visit, it requires a certain amount of financial support, and although the school and the instructor can support them from a part of the scientific research fund, a considerable number of students are still completed with their own scholarships.

Since October, the research team has sorted out and summarized the preliminary research, formed a number of papers that have been published in academic journals, and participated in a number of university social practice and research competitions. In the end, the project won the second place in the Zhejiang Provincial College Students Summer Social Practice Competition, and the students' papers and suggestions were also approved by the leaders of Zhejiang Province.

"We didn't expect such a result, and when we heard that the provincial leaders reviewed the students' research reports, the students felt that they could really make a small contribution to the construction of the country and society, and the sense of achievement overshadowed all the hardships." Instructor Zhou Qiong believes that this project can stand out in the competition, mainly because the current society pays high attention to fertility issues, the country also attaches great importance to this issue, and the students really go on, "This is a grounded and attention-attracting research report." ”

"Helping parents raise their children and think about marriage and childbearing at the same time"

This research report originated from an exchange between Yang Yiran, who was a junior at the time, and her mentor. After reading some of the papers by demographer Mu Guangzong, Yang Yiran talked to her mentor about the willingness of young Chinese to have children, and the mentor encouraged her to continue the problem as a scientific research project.

Such a research project Yang Yiran alone would definitely not be able to complete, so she found a companion to form a research team. In this process, she discovered a very interesting phenomenon - although the peers around her are not very willing to have children, they are very concerned about marriage and childbearing.

Yang Yiran found Huang Qizheng, who was in the same class, and during that time, Huang Qizheng had just come out of a small turmoil in the family. "Do you want to have a sister?" When his father suddenly threw out this question, Huang Qizheng, a 21-year-old junior boy, looked clouded, and he replied to his father: "How old are you, what are you kidding?" However, after some time, his mother also found him and said solemnly: "Your father is serious, but I don't want to give birth." ”

The family of three held a family meeting for this, and after analyzing the pros and cons, the father dismissed the idea of having a second child. After that, my father also realized that his ideas were too idealistic and ignored practical problems: he could only go home once a week because of his work; The lover is not yet retired, and his son is attending college. In the current state and energy of the whole family, it is difficult to support another child.

In this group, there are two other girls who have similar experiences to Huang Qizheng. They all have younger siblings who are more than ten years younger than themselves, and the experience of helping parents with their children has made them both interested in studying marriage and childbearing.

Wang Yixin is in her junior year this year, she is 16 years older than her own sister, due to her parents' limited energy, Wang Yixin has to act as a "half mother" in many times in daily life. Especially during winter and summer vacations, she almost always accompanies her sister. "The energy of the little ones is too high. She is now in the literacy stage, and I have to read anything to her. Wang Yixin said that he is 21 years old this year, but he is still no match for the spirit of children.

Wang Yixin said frankly that the birth of her little sister was an accident in the family. While bringing up the baby, she will think, under the current social situation, what is the meaning of childbirth? What motivates fertility? How can the problem of fertility arise and be solved?

Economic pressures are not the most important factor in determining the willingness to have children

In interviews with unmarried people, the research team found that young people's attention to fertility is mainly on hidden social issues, such as the problem of having children out of wedlock and women's rights. The married and childbearing groups are mainly concerned about the pressure of social competition, and they feel that the current society is "too rolled" to raise children. A child's father directly told Yang Yiran, "Now the input and output of raising children are not proportional. ”

Huang agreed with the father's statement. After the investigation, Huang Qizheng realized that it is not easy to raise a child, he feels that it takes a lot to raise a child to grow up, and the work pressure and life pressure in this process are very large.

The reason for the "high financial pressure to have children" was expected by the group before the survey, but to their surprise, this is not the most important factor affecting young people's willingness to have children. In the words of Huang Qizheng, through research, they found many "miracle factors" that affect the marriage and childbearing of young people.

In the survey of people of different ages, the younger generation showed a rebellion against the birth of marriage, and many young people expressed the idea of "the more I give birth to me, the less I give birth".

This rebellion is also manifested in young people's concern for gender rights. Many young women believe that they have seen too much information about gender inequality through the Internet, which makes them worry about women's rights and interests in the process of childbearing.

"Nowadays, young people are less willing to even marry or even fall in love." Huang Qizheng feels that at present, daily life has become extremely rich, there are too many things to fill the emotional gap of young people, and love has become less necessary.

Wang Yixin also experienced this. She is mainly responsible for the interview work of the third group and the comparison of British students. She found that British girls have a low level of awareness of the importance of their partners when talking about fertility, while Chinese girls have very high requirements for their partners when considering their fertility intentions, believing that their husbands must be good enough to consider having children.

The birth support policy has exceeded expectations, but still needs to be improved

During the field visit, the students in the research group learned more about the real thing.

Yang Yiran said that after they went down to investigate, they found that Zhejiang Province is carrying out the construction of "infant growth stations", where mothers can bring their children to the community to receive education in parenting knowledge, and can also bring their children to play games. In addition, the community will also organize stay-at-home mothers to participate in book club activities, and many stay-at-home mothers will take this opportunity to complain to each other.

In this activity, only one father participated, and the research team immediately interviewed him, only to find that this man was one of the initiators of the event, and he and his wife hoped to alleviate the anxiety of stay-at-home mothers through activities such as reading Chinese studies books.

At a childcare summer camp being held in a community, community workers and full-time teachers are leading children to do paper-cutting and painting. The community secretary took the initiative to visit Huang Qizheng, who said that the original intention of the community to hold these activities was to help these parents relieve the pressure of raising their children and also pass on the fun to the children. In addition, the community has also carried out other colorful activities, such as open-air film festivals, and many stay-at-home mothers have spontaneously formed blind date groups, which have promoted the love of many young men and women, and also contributed to the promotion of community fertility.

Through the visit, Huang Qizheng found that the government department has actually done a lot of work to promote fertility, but he believes that these works should be more proactive and let more people know, so as to form a better fertility culture atmosphere.

Because she has been acting as a "half mother" for her little sister, Wang Yixin's feelings are more intuitive, she found that in recent years, the mother and baby facilities around her have been gradually improved, mother and baby rooms have begun to appear in shopping malls, and the surrounding people have become more caring and friendly to women with children.

The students in the research group said that their biggest gain is that through this year-long survey, they have thought more about the issue of marriage and childbirth, and the issue of marriage and childbirth is no longer stuck in their imagination.

Wang Yixin was a celibate before, but after research, she began to think about having children.

Wang Yixin believes that the research process has allowed her to more accurately understand fertility problems. For example, childbirth is a very painful thing, which cannot be covered by the brilliance of motherhood. In addition, she feels that she should study harder so that her future self can have more freedom of choice. But at the same time, she also saw some of the benefits of childbirth through research, such as mothers with many children saying that raising children can bring happiness and a sense of accomplishment.

Huang Qizheng was a boy who had little intention of marriage and childbearing, but through this survey, he found that the reality was still relatively optimistic, he could see the gradual implementation of policies that helped fertility in the society, and the relevant work done by the community also gave him confidence.

Yang Yiran feels that after the research, she will look at fertility more carefully. This point is also the value of research, young people can only understand the meaning behind the fertility intention by going closer to the individual "person".

Text/Reporter Zhang Ziyuan

Coordinator/Lin Yan Zhang Bin