Book about adults who still cling to their parents for guidance sparks debate on Chinese social media

By He Keyao Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/16 18:33:39

One reason China has so many

One reason China has so many "big babies" is the traditional culture in which parents spoil their children, experts say. Photo: Li Hao/GT

"Why are you always relying on your parents? Can't you make your own decisions by yourself? These are some of the questions that Zhao Ming (pseudonym),27, often encountered before his recent breakup with his girlfriend.

Having worked in Beijing since he graduated from university two years ago, Zhao's has had three failed relationships.

The reasons, according to his latest ex-girlfriend, are that he is "too childish" and "not husband material." He is used to the labels. Several of his friends call him "a big boy." However, recently, they started to use the new popular term "big baby."

The term "big baby" refers to an adult who still behaves like a child: young and immature. Immaturity is not uncommon among Chinese in the post-80s and 90s generation. 

The topic has become the center of attention on Chinese social media after famous Chinese psychologist Wu Zhihong's book Country of Big Babies was published recently.

A new TV reality show called Chinese-styled Blind Date where parents help to choose dates for their adult children has also added fuel to the already heated online debate.

Zhao is a perfect son in his parents' eyes: kind, smart, hardworking and obedient. He talks to his mom almost every day, and every time he has a difficulty or a decision to make, he would discuss it with his parents.

"He tells his parents everything. It made me feel uncomfortable and embarrassed," said Li's ex-girlfriend Emily Liu. "He doesn't have a mind of his own."

Zhao asks his parents for advice on what birthday gift to buy her and even discusses how to make up with Liu after a quarrel with them.

"It sometimes felt like I was dating his parents, not him," she said.

Liu also cannot stand that Zhao barely does housework. When the couple lived together, it's always Liu that washed his clothes, tidied up the apartment and cooked meals

Fed up with being his "babysitter," she finally left him. "Yes, he is sweet and kind, but what I need is a real man, not a big boy," Liu said.

Zhao's life mirrors that of many young Chinese. Ma Zezhong, a psychologist and the executive director of the Beijing Association for Mental Health, said that compared with the post-60s and 70s generation, the younger generation tends to be less mentally and emotionally mature than their age would suggest. The primary factor stunting their development, she said, was a lack of individuality.

According to Ma, the reason for this immaturity is complex, but family, education and social environment play a big role. As only children, many post-80s and 90s Chinese were spoiled or overly protected growing up, which is one of the factors that leads to their slow mental growth.

The way that parents treat their children is essential for their mental development. Liu Guo, a Chinese psychological consultant working in the US, agrees. She thinks it's also a cultural thing.

"Take myself as an example. I'm about 30 years old, and my mom who still lives in China often tells me what I should do and treats me like a child. In the US culture and a healthy family, my mom's behavior would've been considered as boundary crossing because I'm an adult and can make my own decisions," Guo explained.

She knows it is the way her mother shows love for her, but she finds it hard to accept.

However, Ma stresses that that everyone has a little child inside them and big babies should not be completely ignored. He said it is important for people to acknowledge and accept their immaturity so that they can make changes and push themselves to grow up.

As to how to combat the arrested psychological development of China's young, Ma suggests that individuals socialize more to to enrich their life experience so that their personality and individuality can develop and improve themselves so that they can become more mature and wise.

"Think positive. Go out and join more social communities. Experience more and read more so that the kid inside will grow up."
Newspaper headline: ‘Big babies’


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