Relationships with opposite-gender peers: the ‘fine line’ between an acceptable and unacceptable ‘liking’ amongst children in a Chinese rural primary school

Zhu, Y, Liu, C and Elley, S (2021) 'Relationships with opposite-gender peers: the ‘fine line’ between an acceptable and unacceptable ‘liking’ amongst children in a Chinese rural primary school.' Children's Geographies. ISSN 1473-3285

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/14733285.2021.1970717

Abstract

This article offers new empirical data examining how Chinese children construct their understandings of heterosexuality and opposite-gender relationships with school peers. Gender differences and separation between girls and boys are commonly argued to be a ‘gender rule’ central to children’s peer cultures at school. However, this is rarely explored from children’s perspectives in China’s relatively conservative school context. Drawing on rural primary school ethnographic fieldwork with children aged 11–13 and teachers in mid-West China, the research unearthed children’s curiosity about opposite-gender relationships and unpacks how their articulation of a ‘fine line’ between acceptable ‘liking’ and unacceptable ‘liking’ between boys and girls sits within school cultures. These are evidently shaped by Chinese socio-cultural norms and teachers’ conservative attitudes towards gender. This causes children to paradoxically experience both curiosity and anxiety around romance and practicing heterosexual relationships in school. Significantly improving sexuality and relationship education in the conservative Chinese school context is also discussed.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: children, heterosexuality, gender, relationships, China, primary school
Divisions: School of Education
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1080/14733285.2021.1970717
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2021 16:20
Last Modified: 24 Aug 2021 16:35
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