Chinese parents fight over child surnames

May 27th, 2010 - 10:54 am ICT by IANS  

Beijing, May 27 (IANS) Young parents in China are now faced with a unique problem - most of them do not agree with each other on following the ancient tradition of their child having the paternal surname.
A majority of women - about 80 percent - wanted their children to take the mother’s surname while about three quarters of male respondents opposed the idea, a survey by Phoenix News Media has said.

The survey that began Tuesday spoke to more than 20,000 respondents.

In another survey by, around 70 percent of respondents said they would consider giving the mother’s surname to their kids. And, if a mother gave birth to twins, 65 percent said one twin should have the mother’s surname while the other should have the father’s.

“It would be fair enough to have one twin use my surname because I work as hard as my husband to earn and raise the children. But he opposed, feeling that the twins only belong to his clan,” a mother was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

Hu Guangwei, deputy director of the Sociology Institute of the Sichuan Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said this change has come due to the rise of women’s rights issues and the increased open-mindedness among the new generation.

“A name is just a person’s social label. But for thousands of years, the surname has had many connotations relating to familial lineage, blood relationship and patriarchal clan rules. Surnames thus have long been viewed as the marker for patriarchal lineage inheritance,” Hu said.

Under the Chinese marriage law, a newborn may be given the surname of either the father or the mother.

However, to ease dispute, many parents chose to use double surnames or a combination of the surnames of both the father and mother, sometimes causing the child’s name to be as long as four Chinese characters.

The majority of Chinese full names involve two to three characters, with the first one representing the family name.

China adopted its one-child family-planning policy in the late 1970s to curb the rapid expansion of its population. The first generation born under the policy has reached child-bearing age, one of the surveys said.

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