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Dien, D. (1992). Gender and Individuation: China and the West. Psychoanal. Rev., 79(1):105-119.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Review, 79(1):105-119

Gender and Individuation: China and the West

Dora Dien, Ph.D.

As a woman who grew up in a family of ten children (six girls and four boys) within the Chinese cultural context and as a student of human development East and West, I read The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender by Nancy Chodorow (1978) with great interest. Chodorow set out to refute the traditional psychoanalytic explanation of the differing personality development of the sexes based on their anatomical or constitutional differences and offered a social psychological explanation instead. According to her, the asymmetrical organization of parenting, that is, mothers as primary parent with fathers being remote from the caring and socialization of infants, has resulted in differing personality development for girls and boys. Boys are more likely to develop into the autonomous, independent pattern valued in the work world, which helps to perpetuate the inequality between men and women. Furthermore, because mothers and daughters are of the same gender, the mother-daughter relationship tends to be more complex. During the past decade, we have witnessed an increasing interest in the mother-daughter relationship in this country, and the literature lends strong support to Chodorow's contention.

It is intriguing that Chinese society shares the same social structure of women mothering and men dominating in terms of social power, even to a greater extent than in the West, yet the resulting personality orientations of the sexes seem to be just the opposite. I believe there is a strong male dependency in China because of the enormously high value of the male child to the mother. My perception was supported by a Chinese scholar's (Sun, 1989) recent attack on the pervasive “Mother, I cannot leave you” mentality which he believes hinders social progress.

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