Deviant fertility in China

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Virginia Tech


While most Western and Chinese scholars emphasize the success of Chinese family planning programs, this dissertation focuses on fertility behavior which violates family planning regulations in China. The study contributes to a better understanding of the Chinese "deviant" fertility by conceptualizing the phenomenon in a theoretical framework and conducting an empirical investigation of the issue.

In this dissertation, the concept of "deviant fertility" is defined as reproductive behavior that violates current family size norms in terms of having more than the accepted number of children. An approach that bridges the sociology of fertility and the sociology of deviance is established. Specifically, the theoretical framework is based on the cultural conflict perspective of deviance, developed by Thorsten Sellin. The normative conflict concerning fertility in general and the confrontation between the traditional Chinese large family norms and current family planning rules are explicated.

Three major data sets are used: the Chinese In-Depth Fertility Survey, with a sample of 6,654 Chinese ever married women aged 49 or younger, the Old-Age Security Survey of 220 married Chinese couples, and the Records of County Family Planning Commissions. More than 50 variables and a number of measurement scales are defined and measured. Descriptive statistics, Pearson's r and analysis of variance, multiple regression, and path analysis are employed in the analysis.

Findings from multivariate analyses indicate that a number of factors are significantly related to deviant fertility in China. They are: (1) ideal of large family size, (2) son preference, (3) socioeconomic development, (4) type of employment, (5) area of residence, (6) failed pregnancy, and (7) fertility discussions between a husband and a wife. In addition, the analyses reveal different patterns between rural and urban samples in terms of the impact of individual variables on deviant fertility and different explanatory power of the models. Path analysis further enriches the knowledge of deviant fertility by identifying a number of particular paths through which deviant fertility is influenced. by the selected factors.

Several relevant issues drawn from the findings are addressed, including relationships between deviant fertility and Chinese women's status, prevalence of son preference, rural-urban differences, and normative conflicts of fertility in China. Policy implications are also indicated.