Gendered Competition Among Chinese Adolescents: From a Competitive Education System and Harmonious Culture

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 11:30
Oral Presentation
Erzhen HU, Shanghai University, China
Yingchun JI, Shanghai University, China
Escalated competition in the Chinese education system from kindergarten quota to college entrance, from school strict property to provincial college quota, ect, has become media headlines and the new middle class parents’ unescapable anxieties. In Western countries, the aggression of school year children and youth , how their aggression develops from an early age was widely studied by psychologists.Yet, it has not been scrutinized in context of mainland China, with a highly competitive education system and a patriarchal tradition emphasizing relational harmony and gendered roles. To address this understudied phenomena, I conducted semi-structured interviews with 30 college students who are juniors or seniors to ask them about competitions with their peers from high school through college and to show complex dynamics of emotion creation in their educational environments. From their narratives, we have identified youth competition in the arena of academia, friendship, and romantic relations, which shows a clear gendered pattern in educational space. As a result, competition generally comes in same-gender level, the competition within cross-gender peers might be seen as not on the same level, or never been considered, which I ascribed to the factors of gender stereotypes and socialization. In terms of academic performance, girls are confident and willing to compete with boys in traditional girl’s area; whereas, boys feel more stressful when competing with girls in subjects where girls conventional excel, contrary to their same-gender competition in most setting. Girls show more aggression faced with shared friendships while boys appear to be more acceptable for common friends. When it goes to romantic relationships, girls acts in an indirect, but competitive way with same-gender peers, while boys showed more direct aggression. Interestingly, we have found that informants tend to use words such as “harmony” to describe, if not disguise, the factually competitive relationships in their daily life.