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China's Little Emperors Show Signs of Success



In the Report "Little emperors: behavior impacts of China's one-child policy" (22 February, p. [953][1]; published online 10 January), L. Cameron et al. suggest that being an only child as a result of China's one-child policy (OCP) might carry negative implications for success and well-being. We
edited by Jennifer Sills
Old ways
worth following
To haze and
haze not
Old Trees: Cultural Value
(“Global decline in large old trees,
Perspectives, 7 December 2012, p. 1305),
large old trees play a key ecological role
in many different environments, and their
observed decline may have disastrous con-
sequences for biodiversity and ecosystem
integrity. However, the value of large trees as
part of our cultural heritage, often neglected
in conservation, may be essential for address-
ing the problem of their global decline.
Old trees span several human generations
and thereby constitute a living link between
them. Cultural, religious, spiritual, and sym-
bolic values of the large trees, as well as indig-
enous communities’ reliance on services pro-
vided by them, provide a firm foundation
for practical conservation. In many cases,
the general society’s preferences concerning
large trees may coincide with the broad con-
servation interest (1).
Moreover, large trees wake emotions,
appeal to our aesthetic sentiments, and are
often perceived as important landmarks. In
this sense, they may be perfect fl agship ele-
ments of the conservation strategies. For
example, a concern for big trees in the begin-
ning of the 20th century led to action that
Old Trees: Extraction, Conservation Can Coexist
sity, timber extraction in managed forests should preferentially be concentrated where large old
trees are least likely to develop (“Global decline in large old trees,” D. B. Lindenmayer et al.,
Perspectives, 7 December 2012, p. 1305). However, timber extraction and the conservation of
large old trees are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Current forest policy and management practices in Flanders, Belgium, aim to convert
even-aged stands (areas in which trees are all the same age) to stands with trees of varying
ages in an effort to increase forest ecosystem stability and resilience and to allow trees to
grow old. As part of their ecologically sustainable forest management, public forest man-
agers have adopted a large-tree retention approach [see also (1, 2)]. Tree islands within
stands managed for production of high-quality timber are reserved for conservation, and
trees within these islands will never be extracted. Large old trees of commercially valuable
species that have grown beyond the commercially optimal dimensions will
not be logged either. And no tree beyond a threshold diameter [currently set at
dbh (diameter at breast height) of more than 102 cm] will ever be logged. The
strip-shelterwood system (in which trees are cut in linear strips and surround-
ing trees are given time to grow old) and the coppice-with-standards system
(in which some trees are left to grow while others around them are cut) are
two examples of forest management that allows the combination of sustain-
able forest exploitation and conservation of large old trees.
Division Forest, Nature and Landscape, University of Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200E-2411, BE-3001
Leuven, Belgium. E-mail:
1. D. B. Lindenmayer, W. F. Laurance, Biol. Conserv. 151, 11 (2012).
2. D. B. Lindenmayer et al., Conserv. Lett. 5, 421 (2012).
safeguarded the future of giant sequoias, per-
ceived as “natural temples” (2). When con-
sidering a multitude of large trees’ virtues, it
seems that the value of these iconic organ-
isms should be more broadly recognized by
the conservation community, as it may sup-
port their conservation goals.
1Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Swedish
University of Agricultural Sciences, 750 07 Uppsala, Swe-
den. 2School for Forest Management, Swedish University
of Agricultural Sciences, 739 21 Skinnskatteberg, Sweden.
*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:
1. A. M. Lykke, J. Environ. Manage. 59,
107 (2000).
2. Science 54, 43 (1921).
Old Trees:
Large and Small
(“Global decline in large
old trees,” Perspectives, 7
December 2012, p. 1305),
report a global decline in
large old trees and show that
climate change and human
disturbance are reducing the abundance of
these ecologically important organisms.
Such framing of the problem leads to confl a-
tion of two issues: Old trees and large trees
are not synonymous.
While the term “old growth” brings to
mind the iconic sequoias described by the
authors, stunted and slow-growing forests
in extreme environments also play impor-
tant ecological roles, and declines in small
old trees are of increasing concern. Land-
scapes with small old trees (often surviving at
the edge of their ranges) function as genetic
repositories and population refugia, which
play a critical role in the long-term persis-
tence of forest ecosystems (1, 2).
Published by AAAS
on February 21, 2013www.sciencemag.orgDownloaded from SCIENCE VOL 339 22 FEBRUARY 2013 905
915 920
of plant diversity
IBI Prize Essay
In southern Brazilian Atlantic forests,
where highly diverse isolated populations can
persist over several millennia, small old trees
have shown recent growth decline (3). Here,
at the southernmost limit of tropical forest dis-
tribution, trees more than 40 cm in diameter
are rare, and landscapes dominated by small
trees provide essential services, but very lit-
tle of the original forest cover is protected by
nature reserves. A hemisphere away, in north-
ern Ontario, Canada, live some of the largest
undisturbed old-growth pine forests in North
America (4). Recent work suggests that here,
too, the growth of small old trees (typically
less than 50 cm in diameter, from 150 to more
than 300 years) has been declining (5). As cli-
matic changes and human demands increase,
widespread growth declines and increased
mortality threaten global forests (68). The
struggles of large old trees are important, but
they are by no means unique.
1Global Ecological Change and Sustainability Laboratory,
School of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph,
Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1, Canada. 2Department of Land, Air,
and Water Resources, University of California Davis, Davis,
CA 95616, USA.
*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:
1. J. S. McLachlan, J. S. Clark, P. S. Manos, Ecology 86,
2088 (2005).
2. L. C. R. Silva, M. Anand, Ecosystems 14, 1354 (2011).
3. L. C. R. Silva, M. Anand, J. M. Oliveira, V. D. Pillar, Glob.
Change Biol. 15, 2387 (2009).
4. M. D. Leithead, M. Anand, L. C. R. Silva, Oecologia 164,
1095 (2010).
5. L. C. R. Silva, M. Anand, M. D. Leithead, PLoS ONE 5, 7
6. L. Andreu-Hayles et al., Global Change Biol. 17, 2095
7. P. J. van Mantgem et al., Science 323, 521 (2009).
8. B. Choat et al., Nature 491, 752 (2012).
Perspective on the rapid global decline of large
old trees by asserting that “large” and “old”
are not synonymous. Of course, some ancient
trees are indeed short in stature [e.g., (1)].
Nonetheless, many of the world’s largest trees
are also old (more than 500 to 1000 years) (2,
3), so it is correct to highlight this reality.
Cecile et al. further argue that small old
trees are declining in some ecosystems, and
we agree that this is a matter of concern.
However, large old trees are particularly vul-
nerable to disturbances such as insect attack,
pathogens, drought, and fi re in some environ-
ments (46). Large old trees also play a range
of key roles (e.g., as wildlife habitat and for
carbon storage) that are not played by small
old trees. Unlike large old trees, small old
trees are rarely deliberately removed during
agricultural intensifi cation (7) or because of
safety concerns in urban environments (4).
In addition, small old trees are less likely to
be targeted for logging [although they may be
specifi cally targeted in some restoration proj-
ects in western North America because of
prohibitions on removal of larger trees (8)].
The particular risks faced by large old trees,
combined with their unique ecological roles,
mean that their management and conserva-
tion warrant special mention.
1Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian
National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia. 2Cen-
tre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science
(TESS), and School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James
Cook University, Cairns, QLD 4878, Australia. 3School of
Environmental and Forest Science, University of Washing-
ton, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.
*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:
1. Umeå University, Press Release, “World’s oldest living tree
discovered in Sweden” (16 April 2008); http://info.adm.
2. J. Chambers, N. Higuchi, J. P. Schimel, Nature 391, 135
3. W. F. Laurance et al., Forest Ecol. Manage. 190, 131
4. B. J. Palik, M. E. Ostry, R. C. Venette, E. Abdela, Forest
Ecol. Manage. 261, 128 (2011).
5. M. Simard, E. N. Powell, K. F. Raffa, M. G. Turner,
Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 21, 556 (2012).
6. D. C. Nepstad, I. M. Tohver, D. Ray, P. Moutinho,
G. Cardinot, Ecology 88, 2259 (2007).
7. M. Maron, J. A. Fitzsimons, Biol. Conserv. 135, 587 (2007).
8. J. F. Franklin, K. N. Johnson, J. Forestry 110, 429 (2012).
China’s Little Emperors
Show Signs of Success
impacts of China’s one-child policy”
(22 February, p. 953; published online 10
January), L. Cameron et al. suggest that
being an only child as a result of China’s
one-child policy (OCP) might carry negative
implications for success and well-being. We
caution against overgeneralization from the
economic experiments and personality sur-
veys conducted in this study.
In longitudinal studies among the first
post-OCP cohort—the same cohort as that
studied by Cameron et al.—some single-
tons showed more behavioral problems and
less independence in childhood. Yet, by ado-
lescence, differences in behavioral prob-
lems disappeared and independence levels
reversed (1, 2). In contrast to the experimen-
tal context, more pro-social behaviors among
singletons than non-singletons were found in
community samples (2). In education, single-
tons performed as well as or better than their
peers in verbal and math skills and showed
better school adjustment and lower levels of
anxiety, but they demonstrated inferior test-
ing and study methods (3, 4). Once they
became parents, this cohort of singletons
showed no difference in marriage adjustment
compared with their counterparts, and in fact
demonstrated higher levels of life satisfaction
and higher intergenerational family fusion
(5). Contrary to the hypothesis that malad-
justment might be magnifi ed in later post-
OCP cohorts, singletons born in the 1990s
have shown equal or superior interpersonal
relationships with peers, teachers, and family
members compared with non-singletons (6).
All this is not to deny legitimate concern
over the OCP, only-child status, or the com-
bination of both. Yet, against expectation and
stereotype, research has shown that as “little
emperors” transition into adulthood, their well-
being and performance are comparable with, if
not superior to, those with one or more siblings.
In such complex systems as that of human psy-
chology and behavior, one must move beyond
linear notions of causality. Circular processes
of self-correction at the individual, family, and
social levels often provide surprising compen-
satory responses to initial conditions.
Letters to the Editor
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Science in the past 3 months or matters of gen-
eral interest. Letters are not acknowledged upon
receipt. Whether published in full or in part, Let-
ters are subject to editing for clarity and space.
Letters submitted, published, or posted elsewhere,
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1Shanghai East Hospital; Department of Psychosomatic
Medicine, School of Medicine at Tongji University, Shang-
hai, China. 2Psychological Counseling and Education Cen-
ter, Tongji University, Shanghai, China. 3School of Humani-
ties and Management, Guangdong Medical College, Dong-
guan, China. 4Department of Anthropology, University of
California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.
*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:
1. M. Wang et al., World Cultural Psychiatry Res. Rev. 2,
118 (2007).
2. X. Feng, Zhongguo Shehui Kexue (Social Sciences in
China) 13, 118 (2000).
3. T. Falbo, D. L. Poston, Child Dev. 64, 18 (1993).
4. Z. Li, S. Wu, X. Zhang, Qingnian Yanjiu (Youth Research)
4, 31 (1998).
5. X. Ma, F. Yin, Y. Yao, X. Zhao, Zhongguo Xinli Weisheng
Zazhi (Chinese Mental Health Journal) 2, 118 (2012).
6. Y. Yao, doctoral dissertation, School of Medicine at Tongji
University (2011).
This Week in Science: “Proton still too small” (25 January,
p. 371). The study examined muonic hydrogen, not muon-
ium. Muonic hydrogen is the name given to a system made
from a proton and a negative muon. Muonium is the exotic
atom made from a positive muon and a (negative) electron.
The HTML and PDF versions online have been corrected.
News Focus: “The children’s study: Unmet promises” by
J. Kaiser (11 January, p. 133). The January 2013 workshop
to review the study plan described in the text and time-
line was sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences,
not the Institute of Medicine. The HTML and PDF versions
online have been corrected.
Letters: “NextGen speaks” (4 January, p. 30). Ali Jawaid’s
essay referred to Pakistan, not Switzerland. Jiang Zhao is
at Beihang University, not Beijing University. Guilherme
Martins Santos’s address should be Laboratory of Molecu-
lar Pharmacology, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences,
Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Brasília, Brazil, CEP
70910-900, Brazil. In the online-only essays, Homare Yama-
hachi’s essay referred to Greece, not Norway. These changes
have been made in the HTML and PDF versions online.
Reviews: “Conversion of wastes into bioelectricity and chem-
icals by using microbial electrochemical technologies,” by B.
E. Logan and K. Rabaey (10 August 2012, p. 686). In the Fig.
2 legend, the symbols should have been identifi ed as fol-
lows: “There is roughly an inverse relationship between the
value of these products (circles) and the current densities (tri-
angles)....” On p. 689, “4.5 a.m.–2” should have been written
as “4.5 A m–2.” The authors also wish to thank T. Lacoere and
J. Desloover for assistance in preparing the draft fi gures and
funding from the Commonwealth Scientifi c and Industrial
Research Organization Flagship cluster “Biotechnological
solutions to Australia’s transport energy and greenhouse gas
challenges.” The HTML version online has been corrected.
Comment on “Bilaterian Burrows
and Grazing Behavior at >585 Million
Years Ago”
Claudio Gaucher, Daniel G. Poiré, Jorge Bossi,
Leda Sánchez Bettucci, Ángeles Beri
Pecoits et al. (Reports, 29 June 2012, p. 1693) describe
bilaterian trace fossils and assign them an Ediacaran age
based on the age of a granite interpreted as intrusive. We
argue that the granite is not intrusive but in fact repre-
sents the basement of the sedimentary succession. More-
over, we show that identical trace fossils occur in nearby
Carboniferous-Permian glacigenic rocks.
Full text at
Response to Comment on
“Bilaterian Burrows and Grazing
Behavior at >585 Million Years Ago”
Ernesto Pecoits, Kurt O. Konhauser,
Natalie R. Aubet, Larry M. Heaman,
Gerardo Veroslavsky, Richard Stern,
Murray K. Gingras
Gaucher et al. suggest that their fi eld observations and
petrographic analysis of one thin section do not support
an Ediacaran age for the trace fossils–bearing strata of the
Tacuarí Formation. We have strengthened our conclusion
of an Ediacaran age for the Tacuarí Formation based on
reassessment of new and previously presented fi eld and
petrographic evidence.
Full text at
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on February 21, 2013www.sciencemag.orgDownloaded from
... Researchers have expressed concern regarding the development of only children in such families, considering whether Chinese only children would be "spoiled" and become "Little Emperors" (Falbo, 1996;Feng, 2000;Cameron et al., 2013). However, limited evidence has been produced that indicates such a difference between only and nononly children (Poston and Falbo, 1990;Falbo and Poston, 1993;Falbo, 1996;Feng, 2000;Edwards et al., 2005;Zhao et al., 2013;Falbo and Hooper, 2015;Song and Wang, 2019). Rather, these studies focused on the personality development of only children while failing to examine the lives of children within their family units (Fong, 2004;Short, 2005). ...
Full-text available
The One-Child Policy dramatically changed the Chinese family structure, and the literature indicates that only children may have an advantage in terms of family resource dilution. Moreover, as Chinese families traditionally prioritize investing in sons, only daughters are found to have been empowered by the policy because they did not need to compete with their brothers for parental investment. However, the literature is limited to only teenage children when they were still living in their parents' homes. It is unclear whether—when the generation of only children grew up and married—their family structure differed from that of children with siblings and whether married only daughters retained more family resources from their parents. Based on the data analysis of a 2016 survey, “Study of Youths in 12 Cities of Mainland China,” including a sample of 1,007 fathers and 2,168 mothers born between 1975 and 1985, this study explores the empowerment of married only daughters, employing the theory of family resource dilution in expanded Chinese families. Using educational investment in children as an example, and with random intercept models, this study presents empirical evidence that the dilution of family resources in Chinese expanded families still benefits males and patrilineal practices. Thus, this study demonstrates that Chinese families still tend to sacrifice the interests of married daughters to ensure support for their adult sons. However, it also illustrates that married only daughters could still connect to their parents' resources, giving them a relatively dominant position for decision-making regarding the family's educational expenditure on her own children. Thus, this study extends our understanding of the family resource dilution theory to Chinese expanded families, underscoring the need for further research on Chinese only children after they marry and form families of their own.
... First, through comparison of the level of self-esteem between different groups according to the family factors, it is found that the only child was rated significantly higher on self-esteem than the students with siblings. The possible reasons can be that the only child gain more attention from their parents, the parents usually have higher expectations on the only child, hence they can get more support and resources from their parents, which could contribute to the higher level of self-esteem (36,37). The results of comparison analysis also suggested that students raised by their grandparents showed lower levels of self-esteem than students who were raised by their parents. ...
Full-text available
This study examined the impact of family function and family-related factors, such as being an only child, grandparenting, income, and family relationship on the self-esteem in college students who are in the transitional period from late adolescence to emerging adulthood. The participants were 2001 Chinese college freshmen with the age from 16 to 20 years. Data were collected by using the family assessment device (FAD), the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale, and self-report of family information. Comparison analysis indicated that the students from one child families, harmonious families, from families with higher income, or raised by their parents without the experience of grandparenting are more likely to show high self-esteem than their counterparts. Moreover, a multiple regression showed that dimensions of FAD such as role, communication, behavioral control, and problem solving predicted level of self-esteem of the college students, ranging from 13.2 to 17.9% variance. The results of this study showed that the self-esteem of the college freshmen is highly correlated with their family’s performance. Therefore, the program focusing on improving family functioning is needed, in order to enhance the self-esteem of the young people and hence contribute to promoting the mental health of them.
2 University Program in Ecology, P.O. Box 90329, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708 USA Abstract. Recent models and analyses of paleoecological records suggest that tree populations are capable of rapid migration when climate warms. Fossil pollen is commonly interpreted as suggesting that the range of many temperate tree species expanded at rates of 100-1000 m/yr during the early Holocene. We used chloroplast DNA surveys to show that the geography of postglacial range expansion in two eastern North American tree species differs from that expected from pollen-based reconstructions and from patterns emerging from European molecular studies. Molecular evidence suggests that American beech (Fagus grandifolia) and red maple (Acer rubrum) persisted during the late glaciation as low-density populations, perhaps within 500 km of the Laurentide Ice Sheet. Because populations were closer to modern range limits than previously thought, postglacial mi- gration rates may have been slower than those inferred from fossil pollen. Our estimated rates of ,100 m/yr are consistent with model predictions based on life history and dispersal data, and suggest that past migration rates were substantially slower than the rates that will be needed to track 21st-century warming.
The global trend toward more intensive forms of agriculture is changing the nature of matrix habitat in agricultural areas. Removal of components of matrix habitat can affect native biota at the paddock and the landscape scale, particularly where intensification occurs over large areas. We identify the loss of paddock trees due to the proliferation of centre pivot irrigation in dryland farming areas as a potentially serious threat to the remnant biota of these areas. We used a region of south-eastern Australia as a case study to quantify land use change from grazing and dryland cropping to centre pivot irrigation over a 23-year period. We also estimated rates of paddock tree loss in 5 representative landscapes within the region over the same period. The total area affected by centre pivots increased from 0 ha in 1980 to nearly 9000 ha by 2005. Pivots were more likely to be established in areas which had originally been plains savannah and woodlands containing buloke (Allocasuarina luehmannii), a food source for an endangered bird. On average, 42% of paddock buloke trees present in 1982 were lost by 2005. In the two landscapes containing several centre pivots, the loss was 54% and 70%. This accelerated loss of important components of matrix habitat is likely to result in species declines and local extinctions. We recommend that measures to alleviate the likely negative impacts of matrix habitat loss on native biota be considered as part of regional planning strategies.
Representative samples of 1,000 schoolchildren from 4 Chinese provinces were surveyed to compare the outcomes of only children to those of firstborn and later-born children. The children's ages ranged from 8 to 17 years, with half of the sample in the third grade and the other half in the sixth grade. 3 types of outcomes were considered. In terms of academics, differences between only children and others were found in 3 of the 4 provincial samples, with onlies being most likely to outscore others in verbal tests. In terms of personality evaluations, very few only-child effects were found. In 2 of the 4 provincial samples, only children were found to be taller or to weigh more than others. Taken together, these results suggest that the one-child policy in China is not producing a generation of "little emperors."
  • A M Lykke
A. M. Lykke, J. Environ. Manage. 59, 107 (2000).
  • M D Leithead
  • M Anand
  • L C R Silva
M. D. Leithead, M. Anand, L. C. R. Silva, Oecologia 164, 1095 (2010).
  • B Choat
B. Choat et al., Nature 491, 752 (2012).
  • B J Palik
  • M E Ostry
  • R C Venette
  • E Abdela
  • Forest Ecol
B. J. Palik, M. E. Ostry, R. C. Venette, E. Abdela, Forest Ecol. Manage. 261, 128 (2011).
  • J F Franklin
  • K N Johnson
J. F. Franklin, K. N. Johnson, J. Forestry 110, 429 (2012).
  • W F Laurance
W. F. Laurance et al., Forest Ecol. Manage. 190, 131 (2004).