Using a foundation of social exchange theory, the analyses illustrate the differences between the dating attitudes and expectations of Chinese women and men.
Per traditional expectations, both sexes place a low priority on sexual behaviors, yet more progressive attitudes and behaviors are also evident.
This, then, may lead young adults within collectivistic cultures to emphasize the pragmatic functions of dating and eventual marriage, while having less concern with notions of “love” and “romance” (Hsu ).
The post-Mao Chinese government has steadily encouraged economic modernization and the development of economic practices based upon free market principles similar to those found in Westernized countries.
During adolescence and the early adult years, dating enhances identity formation for individuals and provides socialization experiences which are necessary to forming and maintaining intimate and interpersonal relationships in life (Chen et al. Although researchers have directed their efforts toward a better understanding of the dynamics of dating and partner selection, focusing upon the influence of such elements as the family environment (e.g., parental divorce, parental marital quality, parent-child relationships), peer relationships, and community factors (Bryant and Conger ), the majority of studies focusing upon dating and romantic relationships have utilized samples of Western youth.For sons, in particular, “xiao” makes finding a spouse a priority and consequently makes dating take on a different quality.China is typically regarded as a collectivistic culture, in which obligations to the greater society and social institutions (e.g., the family) are considered more important than individual traits and needs (Kwang ).From this perspective, filial piety and the continuation of family lineage are of tremendous importance (Han ).One of the enduring cultural traits is “xiao,” which, in the most basic sense, refers to filial piety.Seemingly, contemporary Chinese college students may be adopting a perspective of dating and intimate relationships which focuses less on paths toward marriage and more on immediate pleasure and gratification (Yang ).Not surprisingly, Chinese parents tend to strongly discourage their daughters and sons from becoming sexual active, and many are opposed to their children being involved in dating relationships, at all (Stevenson and Zusho ).Researchers have noted this shortcoming and have called for greater empirical examination of partner selection in contemporary urban China (Xu et al. The present study will seek to address these calls for empirical study by using a sample of Chinese college students to examine the nature of attitudes and expectations concerning dating among young adults in contemporary China.The analyses which follow will attempt to more accurately discern the nature of such attitudes and expectations, as well as differences which may exist between females and males.But China’s cultural context goes back several thousands of years.It has a written language that has been in use for the longest continuous period of time in the world, and it has the oldest written history (Han ).In China, marriage and family life continues to be a central element within Chinese culture, with adolescents and young adults typically assuming that they will eventually find a partner.What is lacking, however, is a broader understanding of how contemporary Chinese youth view dating and intimate relationships.Thus, in order to best understand and appreciate the social dynamics occurring in present day China, one should first examine some of the important long-standing traditions connected to its culture.