The Law of Unexpected Consequences or the Little Emperor Syndrome

In 1979 China legislated to stop families having more than one child.  It was hailed as a success and reportedly stopped the birth of 250 million children between 1980 & 2000, paving the way for China’s current prosperity.

However, it is now possible to see some of the other, unintended fruits of this decision.  Families now tend to have a 4-2-1 structure, with 4 grandparents and 2 parents all caring for and lavishing their love, attention and ambitions on a single child.  Not unsurprisingly this has changed that generation of children. They call them ‘Little Emperors’, people who expect the world to revolve around them and having their every whim catered to.

There has been a recent study that that has shown that this popular view is in fact true and scientists tested them.  “We find quite large impacts. Those who are the only children as a result of the policy are considerably less trusting, less trustworthy, more risk averse, less competitive, more pessimistic, less conscientious and possibly also more neurotic,” said Lisa Cameron, of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. “These behavioural impacts could have economic consequences in addition to the more obvious social implications.  For instance, we find that those born under the policy are less likely to be employed in risky occupations, such as self-employment, freelancing or the financial sector. So it may be that the one-child policy generation will be less entrepreneurial.”

All change brings about a series of consequences and inevitably some are not anticipated by the authors of the change.  The old carpenter’s adage, measure twice, cut once is worth bearing in mind.  Take a few minutes after you have decided what you need to do and brainstorm all the likely and possible consequences.  Allow humour and silliness in these sessions as Life often sneaks through just such ‘silly’ holes!  You’ll never anticipate every eventuality but you’ll make a better fist of it if you run this kind of session as part of your planning.

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