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Privacy in the Family

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International Handbook of Chinese Families
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With the great technological advances of the modern era, people have increased concerns about privacy. This chapter, based on data collected from in-depth interviews with 12 respondents from Mainland China, analyzes Chinese people’s privacy orientation, consciousness of rights of privacy, and demarcation of privacy boundaries The mainland Chinese prioritize the privacy of solitude, intimacy, and reserve, while anonymity is not highly prized. In respect of privacy, the mainland Chinese give their family a certain degree of tolerance for opening personal letters. They take the individual as the boundary of privacy, whereby they attend seriously to the personal room as privacy space. Nevertheless, the individuals give their family a high degree of openness in respect to other rights such as knowledge about personal finances and companions, whereby the family as a unit can remain as another boundary of privacy. In the aspects of studies, friendship, work, and emotional relationships, the individuals would disclose to their family the status quo of a personal relationship, but not the problems encountered. Instead, the individual would discuss with schoolmates, friends, or lovers while encountering unhappiness. The individual’s zone of privacy thus also involves non-family members such as friends. Although the function of the family in providing emotional support and satisfaction is no longer as important as before, Chinese people continue to attach much importance to familial relationships.

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  1. 1.

     Chan Ying-keung has done quite a few studies about privacy in the family. All “Chan” citations below refer to the same person.

  2. 2.

     Pruitt (1981) points out that negotiation is the process of two or more units making a joint decision. Different units will negotiate, compromise and make concessions concerning conflict of their own needs, in order to reach a consensus.

  3. 3.

     Chan Ying-keung’s two Chinese articles include “Privacy in Hong Kong: Concept and Empirical Analysis” and “Privacy in the Family: Its Hierarchical and Asymmetric Nature”. He analyzed the data from two empirical surveys in order to clarify (1) the privacy orientations of Hong Kong Chinese; (2) their privacy consciousness; and (3) how to define privacy boundary. The subjects of these two surveys were all Hong Kong Chinese. The former survey was conducted in the form of questionnaire, while the latter was conducted by way of in-depth interview.

  4. 4.

     Because some of the interviewees had to work and their schedule was not changeable, some of the interviews were conducted over the telephone, including Case 10, Case 11, and Case 12. When I wanted supplementary information from the interviewees, I mostly obtained it over the phone. The duration of each interview was from 20 to 30 minutes. And each interviewee was interviewed two to three times.

  5. 5.

     Chan’s study is based on the results of 414 questionnaires and 21 in-depth interviews. My chapter is an exploration of privacy based on a small number of in-depth interviews. The two studies are naturally different.


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Correspondence to Tse Pik-chu .

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Pik-chu, T. (2013). Privacy in the Family. In: Kwok-bun, C. (eds) International Handbook of Chinese Families. Springer, New York, NY.

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