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Little Emperor Syndrome

Little Emperor Syndrome[1] is a name for condition affecting both parents and their one child for example in urban areas of China, Beijing and Shanghai.[2] It is considered to be an indirect result of the one child policy. With both parents lavishing attention and resources on their one child, the child becomes increasingly spoiled and gains a sense of self importance and entitlement.[3] Parents in China and in surrounding nations such as Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea where a 'one child only' incentives are also being encouraged, have been known to wait outside the school for their children all day, carry their school bags around after them and cater for their every need right into teenage and early adult life.[4]


Parents turn to heavy investment on their only child partly in order to relive their own dreams and aspirations. They see themselves in the development of their child and completely focus their lives on them. With parents constantly predicting and telling of high hopes for the future, the child is established as the main focus of the family.

Experts suggest that too much care and pampering may result in the child ending up incapable of leading a confident future life.[5] Many youngsters do not get exposed to life's realities and in many cases the parent's only goal is to get their child into a good slot at a respected university.[6] The truth is that only a little more than 10% of high school students in China can hope to get into a college.[7]

There are known connections between the syndrome and type 2 diabetes, often a result of obesity[8]. As the population pyramid in China is top heavy, all four grandparents are usually still alive and have been known to over nourish their grandchildren, creating a generation of overweight spoiled boys and girls.

China's one-child policy

As single children under China’s One-Child Policy, Little Emperors have access to greater purchasing powers, and more than previous generations, can buy consumer goods.[9] Many individuals in the generation inherit in a 4-2-1 structure (4 grandparents, two parents and one child),[10] leaving accumulated wealth to one heir. The reasons for parental indulgence of their child stem from the reality that single children in China are the sole perpetuators of the family legacy and face pressure to achieve. Second, China firmly values Confucian filial piety,[11] in which children are expected to attend to their parents as they age. As a result, parents exert pressure on their child to succeed in education[12][13] so that he or she may take care of them in old age. Increased competition among state-run corporations[14][15][16][17][18][19][20] has impacted the need for parents to rely on their children. The global implications of an entire generation of single children are yet unknown since China’s Generation Y is the first to be affected.


  1. ^ Lim, Louisa. "Mental health fears in China", BBC, 11 October, 2004. Retrieved on 2007-09-20. 
  2. ^ "Student foot-washers get sole-to-sole with parents", China Daily, 2003-10-10. Retrieved on 2007-09-20. 
  3. ^ Chandler, Clay. "Little Emperors", CNN, October 4, 2004. Retrieved on 2007-09-20. 
  4. ^ Reese, Lori. "A Generation of Little Emperors", Time Asia, September 27,1999. Retrieved on 2007-09-20. 
  5. ^ Guo, Hong. "The 'Little Emperors' Grow Up", Psychology Today, Jan/Feb 2000. Retrieved on 2007-09-20. 
  6. ^ Pleskacheuskaya, Inesa. "Pity the Poor Little Emperors", China Today. Retrieved on 2007-09-20. 
  7. ^ Bristow, Michael. "Chinese students fight for college places", BBC, Wednesday, 6 June 2007. Retrieved on 2007-09-20. 
  8. ^ Chen, Nancy. "China’s ‘Little Emperors’ Take up Dancing", NBC News, Wednesday, June 13, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-09-20. 
  9. ^ Lee, Melissa. "Luxury retailers court China's 'little emperors'", MSNBC, Aug. 7, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-09-20. 
  10. ^ Jackson, Richard; Neil Howe. "The ‘4-2-1 Problem’", European Papers of the new Welfare, 12 February 2006. Retrieved on 2007-09-20. 
  11. ^ Pleskacheuskaya, Inesa. "Pity the Poor Little Emperors", China Today. Retrieved on 2007-09-20. 
  12. ^ "Educating China's "little emperors"", China Daily, 2003-11-05. Retrieved on 2007-09-20. 
  13. ^ "Chen Lu: China", BBC, Monday, 21 February 2005. Retrieved on 2007-09-20. 
  14. ^ Merk, Axel. "China: Embrace the competition", Asia Times Online, May 23, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-11-19. 
  15. ^ The Transition from State to Private Capitalism in China June 2003 essay by Satya J Gabriel Professor of Economics, Mount Holyoke College
  16. ^ Bush, Nathan. "Chinese Competition Policy", China Business Review. Retrieved on 2007-11-19. 
  17. ^ Hess, William H.. "Critical Eye on Guangdong", China Business Review. Retrieved on 2007-11-19. 
  18. ^ "China deal to boost economy", BBC, Wednesday, 24 November, 1999. Retrieved on 2007-11-19. 
  19. ^ Miles, James. "China: bleak future for state workers", BBC, Monday, January 5, 1998. Retrieved on 2007-11-19. 
  20. ^ "China scraps jobs guarantee", BBC, Tuesday, 7 January, 2003. Retrieved on 2007-11-19. 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Little_Emperor_Syndrome". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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