This is a theoretically and empirically balanced study regarding new family dynamics in contemporary China. Drawing insights from the empirical investigation of the modern practice and emerging norm of daughters providing for the elderly and based on an early version of a theory, I have developed the model of Mosaic Familism. I argue that an emerging bilateral-multi-nuclear family system featured by intimate intergenerational interdependence is replacing traditional patrilineal and patriarchal family in contemporary China. My findings show four themes of gender and family changes which constitute core mechanisms of Mosaic Familism. First, an intimate parent-children symbiosis emerges, replacing the patriarchal authoritarian intergenerational relationship. Second, this intergenerational intimacy is featured by an interweaving of money and affections in daughters’ and parents’ daily practices. Third, an emerging bilateral-multi-nuclear family system is in the process of replacing the traditional patrilineal and patriarchal family, driven by different generations of women’s care practices and emotional interaction. Fourth, new gender practices intersect with old patriarchal norms, with patriarchy both seriously challenged and subtly re-strengthened in some aspects.
Yingchun Ji is the Eastern Scholar Professor in the School of Sociology and Political Science at the Shanghai University. Dr. Ji obtained her Ph.D. in the sociology department at UNC-Chapel Hill. She has served as Guest Editor for Journal of Marriage and Family,Chinese Sociological Reviewand China Reviewin recent years. She is currently the board member of the International Chinese Sociologist Association and on the editorial board of Social Science and Research. Her research interests include family sociology, gender studies, and low fertility in China, and quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods. Dr. Ji has published in journals of multiple disciplines, such as Journal of Marriage and Family, Sex Roles, Population Studies, Temporalités(in French), BMC Public Health, Chinese Journal of Sociology, Chinese Sociological Review, and Social Sciences in China (《中国社会科学》). Much of her research is focused on family and gender issues in the Asian institutional and cultural context. In addition to empirical studies using both quantitative and qualitative methods, Dr. Ji has dedicated herself to developing localized theories to understand changing gender and family dynamics in post-reform China, and to understand low-fertility in present China as well as in East Asia from a gender perspective. Currently, Dr. Ji is working on two projects: 1) developing a theory called Mosaic Familism to understand the changing intergenerational dynamics in Chinese families; and 2) conducting a project to understand a voluntarily run Match-making Market by anxious parents in the People’s Park in downtown Shanghai.