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Young couples splitting from tradition
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08:53, June 10, 2009

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After seven years as a loving couple, Gao and girlfriend Deng finally tied the knot in 2006. Three years and several rows over the washing up later, they are hastily trying to sever it again.

They are just two of the casualties of the marriage curse hitting the post-80s generation in China, among whom divorce has increased almost 8 percent, according to government statistics.

Gao and Deng, who were both born to single-child families in the 1980s, filed for divorce at the Mentougou District Court in Beijing early this year, citing constant arguments over the housework, local media reported.

Women chat at a marriage counseling and psychological therapy agency in Nanchang, Jiangxi province. (China Daily Photo)

The claim was dismissed but, according to court records, the couple was not the only ones looking to divorce over what many people would call trivial matters.

The marriage of Wang Jing, 24, and Chen Sen, both from Beijing, only lasted 18 months as Wang complained her husband had become addicted to online games, missed meals and did not care for her when she was sick.

Chen Juan, 27, dumped her groom Zhou Jun, who was two years her junior, just before giving birth last August because he talked dirty, did not buy her clothes and seldom went with her for pre-natal examinations. Her case was also dismissed but she has now launched a second attempt.

More than 10 million couples registered to wed last year, 10.8 percent more than in 2007, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. About 73 percent of those were aged under 30.

Meanwhile, 2.26 million were divorced in courts or by civil affairs bureaus, an 8.1-percent rise on 2007, showed ministry statistics.

In 2005, the figures stood at 8.23 million marriages and 1.78 million divorces.

The rising trend, visible across the country, raises serious questions about the mentality of the generation, say experts.

"The post-80s people from one-child families are such a unique generation," said Liu Fengqin, of the Beijing Maple Women's Psychological Counseling Center. "They are born and grow up under a spotlight.

"They've directly benefited from the fruits of China's reform and opening-up, and their mindset reflects the tremendous changes in social transition.

"They are intelligent and open-minded, but are often labeled as spoilt and less considerate of others, which affects the quality of their marital life."

Following policies drawn up in the 1970s, people under 30 from one-child families make up 29 percent of the population, according to a national sample survey of 1 percent of China's citizens in 2005.

Meanwhile, research by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in 2007 showed, of those born between 1976 and 1986, the average age of those getting married was 24, based on a study of 2,888 adults from single-child families.

But the question is: Are they equipped with the right mindset needed for a long-term commitment, or are they just too self-centered?

"An only-child grows up constantly being taken care of by family," Liu explained. "So a lot of young people are mentally immature and not ready to take on big life challenges, such as marriage or having children.

"Unlike their parents, who experienced political turbulence and economic difficulties in the 1960s and 70s, they have not encountered many struggles in life. So when they have disputes in marriage, they feel helpless and may easily give up."

Shi Qilan, who has one daughter in Shenyang, Liaoning province, said couples must work together to overcome their selfish ways.

"They should show more mutual understanding and tolerance. After getting married, they probably feel unbalanced having to think of someone else. But they must help each other, otherwise marriage just becomes one big tug of war," she said.

Another reason for the rise in divorce could be the fact the procedure for marriages and separations was streamlined in October 2003 with the new Regulation on Marriage Registration.

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