Filial Obligation in Contemporary China: Evolution of the Culture-System

Xiaoying QI*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

110 Citations (Scopus)


Family obligation, which has an exceptionally high salience in traditional Chinese society, continues to be significant in contemporary China. In family relations in particular sentiments and practices morphologically similar to those associated with xiao (filial piety) remains intact in so far as an enduring set of expectations concerning age-based obligation continues to structure behavior toward others. Researchers pursuing the theme of "individualization" in Chinese society, on the other hand, argue that family obligations and filial sentiments have substantially weakened. The present paper will show that under conditions of cultural and social change in China filial behavior through family obligation continues to play an important role even though the conventions associated with the relevant expectations, attitudes and emotions have undergone significant change. The paper argues that the culture-system develops not merely through an internal dynamic and that family obligation must be understood in terms of the social and material context in which it operates and the nature of the motivations and imagery of the people that practice it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-161
Number of pages21
JournalJournal for the Theory of Social Behaviour
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Family interdependence
  • Family obligation
  • Filial piety
  • Social welfare


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