Father knows best? Chinese parents’ perceptions of their influence on child development

Xuan Li, Cong Zhang, Rui Yang, Vanessa L. Fong, Niobe Way, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Xinyin Chen, Guangzhen Zhang, Zongbao Liang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigates how Chinese parents’ narratives about the father’s and the mother’s influence on child development reveal their gender beliefs and socialization goals. Drawing on interviews of 62 father-mother pairs from a mixed-method longitudinal study in Nanjing, China, we found that contrary to the assumption that parents of both genders benefit children’s development in their respective, gender-typical ways in extant literature, our participants believed that mothers as executor of ‘trivial’ childrearing tasks provide few positive influences than fathers who steer the ‘broad’ directions of child development and cultivation of male traits. Parents emphasized the importance of instilling masculinity in both boys and girls, which differs from the valuation of mothers’ same-gender role modeling for daughters in Western-based studies. Yet underneath the father’s ‘masculine’ influences are concerns about children’s ability to meet increasingly rigid and narrow standards for masculinity in today’s China, which imposes pressure on mothers, fathers, and sons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Family Studies
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • China
  • Fathers
  • gender
  • masculinity
  • mothers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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