Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program


Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Pascal Boyer


This dissertation investigates how Chinese children, born under the one-child policy and often seen as selfish "little emperors", develop moral senses and learn cooperation in the course of preschool life, at the height of China's "moral crisis." Data is collected is during a 12-month ethnographic field research in a middle-class preschool community in Shanghai, China. This study combines participant observation, interview, questionnaire, field-experiment to examine beliefs and behaviors of children, teachers, and parents (and/or grandparents). It reveals that parents and educators are caught up in profound quandaries, as they live with extraordinary expectations for these only children's future success and tremendous anxiety regarding child-rearing. It illuminates how children's nascent moral dispositions are selected, expressed or repressed, and modulated under the context of moral education quandaries, in a number of domains, including empathy and altruism, fairness and ownership, authority and discipline, among others.


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