Views & Reviews Review of the Week

China’s son preference—consigned to history?

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 28 April 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2216
  1. Thérèse Hesketh, professor of global health, Centre for International Health and Development, University College London
  1. t.hesketh{at}

    An emotive account of the preference for male babies in China gives a misleading impression, believes Thérèse Hesketh on the basis of her experience as a paediatrician there

    For thousands of years a preference for sons has been prevalent in an arc of countries from east Asia through south Asia to the Middle East and north Africa. Sons are preferred because they have a higher wage earning capacity, especially in agrarian economies; they continue the family line; and they are generally recipients of inheritance. In some countries girls are an economic burden, because of the dowry system, and after marriage they typically become members of the husband’s family, ceasing to have responsibility for parents in old age. Over the centuries the preference for sons has led to female infanticide and the abandonment and neglect of girls.

    This book provides an illuminating insight into the lives of a few of those women who have been forced to give up their daughters as a result of this sociocultural pressure in China. Xue Xinran was a journalist and local radio presenter in China between …

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