Moral Development of Girls and Boys in a Taiwan Village (1958-1960): Analyzing Arthur P. Wolf's Improved Replication of the Six Cultures Study with a New Framework
Jing Xu

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Washington, Seattle

Primary Discipline

This project aims to examine how moral development from early to middle childhood intersects with gender in children's everyday life, in a community with a long tradition of Confucian moral-cultivation and an entrenched son-preference. In this project I use new theories and methods to analyze a rare and unpublished fieldnotes archive collected by the late anthropologists Arthur P. Wolf and Margery Wolf in mid-twentieth century Taiwan. Designed as an improved replication of the Six Cultures Study, a landmark project in anthropology, the Wolfs' research was the first systematic field research on Han Chinese children. To integrate and analyze thousands-of-pages of field-notes, including naturalistic observations, interviews, questionnaires, and psychological tests, the project uses a novel analytical approach that combines ethnography with data science techniques for textual, demographic, and social network data. Distinct from the behaviorist paradigm in the Six Cultures Study, it adopts a cognitive anthropology framework that examines culture-mind interface and highlights children's agency. It will shed new light on a crucial moment in intellectual history, when cross-cultural studies of education intersected with Chinese studies. It will also bring the gender perspective, essential to social justice, into new theoretical conversations on the learning of morality in early life-stage.
About Jing Xu
Jing Xu is an anthropologist affiliated with the University of Washington. Her work seeks to answer this central question: How do we become moral persons in socio-cultural contexts? Interested in culture-mind interaction, she adopts an interdisciplinary approach that puts anthropological and psychological theories in conversation, combines ethnography and quantitative methods, and draws from the broad field of Chinese studies. Her book The Good Child: Moral Development in a Chinese Preschool (Stanford University Press, 2017), based on fieldwork in Shanghai, integrates ethnography and experiments to examine preschool children?s moral development under China?s one-child policy and a widely perceived societal ?moral crisis.? Recently, her book is translated into Chinese (East China Normal University Press, 2020). She completed post-doctoral training in experimental psychology at the University of Washington, focusing on prosocial development in infancy. Her research has been published in venues spanning multiple disciplines, such as American Anthropologist, Developmental Psychology, Ethos, PLoS One, Cross-Currents: East Asia History and Culture Review, and Sociological Review of China. Originally from China, she holds a B.A. in journalism and M.A. in sociology from Tsinghua University (Beijing), and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis.

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