Sydney, Jan 11: China’s controversial One Child Policy (OCP), a radical tool of population control, has produced people who are more pessimistic, low on self esteem, less trustworthy and far less competitive, according to a finding.
The OCP was introduced in 1979 and strictly enforced in urban centres using economic incentives.
In 2011, an official Chinese outlet cited the numbers of births prevented at 400 million.
Lisa Cameron and Lata Gangadharan, Xin Meng, Nisvan Erkal from Monash, Australian National and Melbourne Universities, respectively, examined cohorts of children born just before and after the OCP was introduced.
They assessed social and competitive behavioural attributes such as trust and risk-taking.
They conducted a series of economic games on more than 400 subjects.
The imposition of the OCP allowed them to identify individuals who grew up as an only child because of the policy and who would have grown up with siblings in the absence of the OCP, the journal Science reported.
Comparing this group with those who were born before the OCP, they isolated the causal impact of growing up as single children.
Results indicated that individuals who grew up as single children as a result of China’s OCP were significantly less trusting, less trustworthy, more risk-averse, less competitive, more pessimistic, and less conscientious individuals.
Cameron, professor at the Monash Centre for Development Economics, said effects were observed even if single children had significant contact with social peers, according to a Monash statement.
“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. There is some evidence that parents can influence their children’s behaviour by encouraging pro-social values,” Cameron said.
“Our data show that people born under the One Child Policy were less likely to be in more risky occupations like self-employment. Thus there may be implications for China in terms of a decline in entrepreneurial ability,” added Cameron.