Dreams of tigers and flowers: child gender predictions and preference in an urban mainland Chinese sample during pregnancy

Women Health. Jan-Feb 2009;49(1):50-65. doi: 10.1080/03630240802694673.


In an urban, mainland Chinese sample, we investigated expectant mothers' stated gender preference for a boy or girl child, their conjectures on the fetal gender, the culture-specific beliefs for making their predictions, and their relations to sociodemographic variables. A total of 174 women were interviewed at 12-19 weeks gestation. Among 84 women who made a prediction on gender, 56 (67%) thought they were carrying a boy, and 28 (33%) expected a girl. The most frequent reasons cited for their speculation were personal feelings (36%), food/taste preference (13%), feedback from others (13%), somatic responses (13%), and dreams (7%). Out of 63 women who stated a wish for a boy or girl child, 45 (71%) wished for a girl and 18 (29%) wished for a boy. Women with undergraduate or graduate degrees were more likely to indicate a preference for boys. Older expectant mothers were more likely to report that they thought they were carrying boys. In conclusion, the majority of the women did not state a distinct choice for gender of the child. When they expressed a gender preference, more mothers expressed a desire to have a girl. However, boy child conjectures were more frequent than girl child conjectures. Greater boy child preference and prediction among the most highly educated and older expectant mothers might be reflective of implicit social status in having sons in urban China.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Dreams*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Pregnancy / psychology*
  • Social Identification
  • Social Perception
  • Superstitions*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult