Social Development Seminar

Date & Time: 
Friday, November 2, 2018 - 14:00 to 15:30
Xuan Li, NYU Shanghai and Siyang Cao, East China Normal University
Room 385, Geography Building, Zhongbei Campus, East China Normal University

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2:00 – 2:30 PM    Good Men Need to be You Dandang: Negotiating Masculinity in Practices of Intimacy among Chinese Young Men

                          By Siyang Cao, East China Normal University

2:30 – 2:45 PM    Q&A moderated by Professor Pekka Santtila

2:45 – 3:15 PM    Father Knows Best: Urban Chinese Parents’ Perception of the Father’s and the Mother’s Influence on Child Development

                          By Xuan Li, NYU Shanghai

3:15 – 3:30 PM    Q&A moderated by Professor Pekka Santtila


Good Men Need to be You Dandang: Negotiating Masculinity in Practices of Intimacy among Chinese Young Men 


Siyang Cao is currently a Postdoc fellow at the School of Social Development, East China Normal University. She obtained her PhD in Women’s Studies from the University of York in 2018. Siyang’s research focuses on young men’s views of Chinese manhood and how they construct and negotiate masculinities in their everyday lives, including body and embodiment, practices of intimacy and temporal masculinities in the site of kinship. Her work aims to bring indigenous concepts and cultural repertoires into critical dialogue with global and leading sociological theories of individualization and reflexivity. More broadly, Siyang’s research interests are gender and masculinity studies, body and embodiment, and sociology of everyday life.


Under the ever-deepening transformations in contemporary China, traditional gender relations have been reshaped, but elements of patriarchy informed by the legacy of Confucianism still linger. These intricately interwoven forces have exerted a great impact on the intimate experience of the young generation. In this presentation, I will critically examine Chinese young men’s interpretations and practices of intimacy between couples. Based on 30 in-depth interviews, I argue that you dandang—being willing to shoulder responsibilities and capable of fulfilling male roles—is the key criterion of masculinity in the intimate sphere. This sentiment captures the complexity and nuances of intimate relationships in the Chinese context, which may be bound by both intimate ties and obligations. In order to align themselves with this masculine ideal, Chinese young men deploy different strategies in a reflexive and relational manner. This process contributes significantly to making sense of the masculine self. Overall, masculinity constructed through practices of intimacy is characterized by its embeddedness in a whole set of family relationships, and also shaped by the availability of resources, structural constraints, and cultural traditions.


Father Knows Best: Urban Chinese parents’ perception of the father’s and the mother’s influence on child development


Xuan Li is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at NYU Shanghai and is an affiliated member of NYU-ECNU Institute for Social Development, and Department of Applied Psychology, NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Prior to joining NYU Shanghai, she was research associate at German Youth Institute (Deutsches Jugendinstitut), Munich, Germany. She holds a Ph.D. and an MPhil in Social and Developmental Psychology from the University of Cambridge, and undergraduate degrees in Germanistik and Psychology from Peking University. Xuan Li’s research focuses on fatherhood, parent-child interactions and relationships, and children and adolescents’ socioemotional development in contemporary Chinese societies. She is also interested in general issues pertaining to human development, family research, and gender studies.


Parents, as key socializers, can influence children’s gender beliefs in powerful ways, yet few studies so far have explored parents’ implicit gender beliefs (instead of explicit socialization practices). To address this gap, the present study investigates how Chinese fathers’ and mothers’ understanding of the paternal and maternal influences on child development reflect their implicit gender beliefs. Drawing on interview data from father-mother pairs from 54 urban Chinese families, we found that the parents interviewed held gender stereotypical views about the father’s and the mother’s respective influence on child development. Participants also believed that the father has a positive influence on child development, whereas the mother has a negative influence on children, especially for boys but also for girls. These findings suggest that urban Chinese parents today view themselves as agents to socialize gender typicality in their children. The belief that the father would cultivate “positive” male traits in their children and the mother would exert “negative” female influences, indicates an overall devaluation of femininity as opposed to masculinity that goes beyond the socialization of gender typicality. Possible reasons behind such beliefs and their implications for child development are discussed.


Seminar sponsored by the Institute for Social Development