Construction of children's cultural identity in Chinese context: understanding young children's perspectives via popular picture books

Fengling Tang, Pan Yue-juan, Niwen Wu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Identity is crucial to children’s healthy development, wellbeing and life experience. Creating and maintaining interpersonal and intergroup relationships is important for children to develop and construct cultural identity as key part of the multiplicity of children’s identities. This chapter aims to explore how Chinese young children construct their cultural identity focusing on their positionings of individual-group relationships portrayed in two picture books – A Colourful Crow (《一只与众不同的乌鸦》) and Frederick (《田鼠阿福》). Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 13 young children in China, our study reveals that children were aware of what felt like being different from others, they showed great sympathy towards the colourful crow, and they would also diminish colour differences in order to maintain their group identity from A Colourful Crow. Frederick, however, shows that individual contribution to the group and what was perceived useful were considered by children to justify what the mouse Frederick did. Children’s perspectives in our study provide a picture mirroring the complexity of how Chinese cultural values intersect with children’s positionings of individual-group relationships. Our study demonstrates that children’s agency plays an important role in the process of children constructing, negotiating and defining their Chinese cultural identities, in which children’s positioning of individual-group relationships was not static but rather shifting and fluid depending on the roles they were allocated with. Our study recommends the importance of using picture books as an effective pedagogical tool for professionals and researchers to facilitate their understanding of the complexity involved in how young children construct their cultural identities and thus support the healthy development of young children’s identities.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe SAGE Handbook of Global Childhoods
EditorsNicola J. Yelland, Lacey Peters, Nikki Fairchild, Marek Tesar, Michelle S. Perez
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherSAGE Publications
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)978-1-529-1781-5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • cultural identity, sense of self, agency, Chinese early childhood education, Chinese traditional culture, children’s literature, wellbeing, play, friendship, individual-group relationship

Cite this