"Childhood in China" by William Kessen

Childhood in China William Kessen

Publication date:
11 Mar 1975
Yale University Press
260 pages: 210 x 140 x 17mm

This perceptive volume gives a detailed account of Chinese children at home and at school. Recently, thirteen American experts in child development visited China under the sponsorship of the Committee on Scholarly Communication with the People’s Republic of China (supported by the National Academy of Sciences, the Social Science Research Council, and the American Council of Learned Societies). They observed and interviewed children, teachers, educational administrators, and parents in twenty-eight schools throughout China. William Kessen, chairman of the delegation, has organized the notes and reports into one cohesive account. This comprehensive volume establishes a foundation on which future research about children in contemporary China can be built.

The book traces the development of children in the family, in nurseries, in kindergartens, in primary schools, and in middle schools. The authors report their observations on formal curriculum, social and personality development, teaching practices, and on patterns of the child’s interactions with peers and adults.

The mosaic that emerges from this book is filled with the kind of detail that only people who are trained in observing children can offer. The contributors are successful in understanding and communicating what it must be like to be a child growing up in the People’s Republic of China.

"This is the report of findings from a delegation of 13 American child-study experts who visited Chinese homes and 28 schools from the nursery through the middle or secondary level in late 1973. . . . The contributors emphasize particular observations with some cautious generalizations. They repeatedly note the apparent cheerful discipline, enthusiasm, and skills of Chinese children, nurtured in a group-oriented, teacher-initiated learning atmosphere. . . . Engaging reading."?Library Journal

"This book is a clear, straightforward description of where they went, what they found, what they would like to study further. They inform the reader of recent Chinese history, of the political and social changes since the ascension of the Communists, of the strife-ridden decades that preceded this event."?New Yorker

"An excellent book edited by William Kessen, chairman of the delegation. It is an elegant introduction to understanding family life in China, and records in meticulous detail the fabric and texture of the Chinese children's world. The writing in Childhood in China sparkles."?Psychology Today

"This book offers lively and fresh insights into a very important topic?the children of China. It ranges across the various institutions which influence childhood development?the family, the nurses, and schools?and makes its points with useful details and interesting anecdotes."?Asia Bulletin

"Recommended for all libraries."?Choice

"The meticulous descriptions of Chinese children at home, in crŠches at a factory, in school, and in the gardens pay off in providing vibrant images of what the child development specialists themselves saw. . . . The delegation was the first group of child psychologists to visit China in a generation; their report provides a different view of a society which is at once an enigma and a fascination to Westerners."?American Scientist

"The most approachable introduction to elite education in China presently available."?Times Higher Education Supplement

"Childhood in China is an invaluable addition to the existing literature on contemporary China. . . . The book is highly readable without any of the puzzling jargon that often discourages lay readers. Not only social scientists, but anyone interested in contemporary China, should benefit from this book."?Journal of Marriage and the Family

"A very readable and engaging account of the life of young children, both in the family and group settings."?Florence Kerckhoff, The Family Coordinator

"The authors of Childhood in China looked closely, recorded details assiduously, and relate here concisely and clearly their observations. . . . An important addition to the growing body of first-hand reports on China in the 1970s and to the literature of childhood socialization."?Lois Dougan Tretiak, Pacific Affairs

"A distinguished group?mainly psychologists, but also including sociologists, China specialists, a pediatrician, and a working nursery school teacher?spent three weeks traveling in China late in 1973 touring and observing kindergartens, nurseries, primary and secondary schools, child health-care facilities, and a few homes along the way. Their report is recommended for its prudence in the face of obvious limitations, while at the same time providing a thought-provoking and occasionally moving account of the group's observations among the Chinese people."?Science

"Anyone concerned with child development will find this report of a visit of 13 American specialists in childhood to the People's Republic of China a necessary book. the various authors offer a thoughtful, ranging review of child rearing, family relationships, the status of schools, and the development of child health services. The combination of well-written text and arresting photographs offers a particularly detailed, vivid look into what is going on in the fascinating country of mainland China. . . . This is a landmark book that should be studied by everyone involved in child development. The lessons in it are clear to anyone who works with children and deserve to be integrated into our own philosophy, or lack of philosophy, in regard to the best ways to educate children to be participants in a healthy, democratic society."?American Journal of Psychiatry