The World Health Organization Quality of Life-100 (WHOQOL-100, Power, Harper, Bullinger, & WHO1QLG), the Self-Rating Anxiety Scale (Zhang, 1993), and the Self-Rating Depression Scale (Zhang, 1993) were used to determine whether Chinese college students from only child and sibling child families rated perceptions of their quality of life differently. Small to moderate significant differences were found when comparing only students to sibling students on the WHOQOL-100 with no significant differences on measures of anxiety and depression. These results suggest that only students do not differ greatly from sibling students in terms of their overall perceptions of their quality of life. A unique characteristic of this study was that it targeted older college students born after implementation of the one-child-per-family policy in China, Also, self-rating instruments were used to gain a greater holistic understanding of the emotional well-being, physical state and social functioning of students. Several psychosocial and economic reasons, including methodological issues related to this study's findings, were discussed.
Keywords: quality of life, Chinese students, WHOQOL-100, sibling, only children.
In China, the Government implemented the "one-child-per-family policy" in 1979 in an effort to control the country's burgeoning population which, if left unchecked, was estimated to reach 2.1 billion by 2080 (Tseng et al., 1988; Wang et al., 2000). Although the program has proved successful in stemming the rapidly expanding population, it has raised considerable concern about the detrimental effects on the children themselves growing up as only children (Yang, Ollendick, Dong, Xia, & Lin, 1995).
These concerns led many Chinese to express worry that the years ahead may well be characterized by millions of single children who are spoiled, maladjusted, and lacking the virtues that Chinese value (Falbo et al., 1989). Some note concerns about the qualities of discipline, moral ethics and collectivism valued by Chinese society that could be eroded (Jiao, Ji, & Jing, 1986). Others expressed concern that the qualities of hard work and high achievement that reflect the efforts of the family and country may be lost (Dong, Yang, & Ollendick, 1994). In the past few years numerous journalistic reports published in China refer to the only children of China as "little emperors", the Chinese term for "spoiled," (Falbo et al., 1989; Wan, Fan, Lin, & Jing, 1994).
This negative stereotype of only children was further reinforced when Wan et al. (1994) reported a widely held view that only children were more egocentric, less cooperative, less affiliative, and more maladjusted than were children with siblings. Belmont (1977) added to this view of only children by reporting that they were more likely to be diagnosed as psychologically disturbed. Wang et al. (2000) showed that attitudes toward only children had not changed over the years when they reported beliefs of only children as being overprotected and spoiled, which may result in undesirable outcomes in their physical, emotional, social and psychological development.
One of the early studies that gained the attention of proponents of the stereotypical view of only children was by Jiao et al. (1986). Teachers and peers rated primary school children on behavioral characteristics and found only children were at a severe disadvantage. Liu,Munakat, Fujiyama, & Usuba (2003) reported - when investigating psychosocial attributes - that only children, irrespective of gender, had higher anxiety and depression scores, thus supporting a study by Tseng et al. (1988). Wang et al. (2000) focused their research more broadly on physical and personality traits and found that only children have more disadvantaged outcomes than do children with siblings.
Research findings showing disadvantaged outcomes for only children have, however, been challenged. Yang et al. …