The extended family is the basis of Chinese family life. In urban areas, housing units are small and can only accommodate a nuclear family. Family members usually live close together and continue to care for and help each other. Unmarried adult children, unless they are assigned their own quarters, remain at home until married. Chinese seniors are revered for their wisdom and experience and are usually cared for by their families; some urban seniors with good pensions may move into seniors' residences.

In rural areas, houses are larger. Family members work together as a team, and commonly several generations live under one roof. Every member, young or old, contributes to the family's welfare. Recent agricultural reforms have brought more wealth to rural dwellers. Many new houses dot the countryside and those who can afford to now sometimes live separately from their parents or children. Increasing unemployment has also compelled people to urban centres.

Women's lives have changed dramatically since the establishment of a communist government. Traditionally, Chinese women were expected to be delicate and submissive, resigned to dependence. Communist policies gave women equal rights and equal protection. Both urban and rural women work outside the home, many doing jobs that were previously done by men. At home, women are mostly treated as equal partners by their husbands, who help with housework and cooking. Although these changes have been less profound in the countryside and many patriarchal values persist, the position of rural women has greatly improved.

In 1979, the government introduced a one-child-per-family policy to control China's population explosion. Because many families-especially in the countryside-want a male child, some families pay high fines to have extra children; in addition, there continues to be an increase in abortion and infanticide of girl children. In urban areas, however, the policy has been extremely successful; people have been willing to forego having more children to ensure a better standard of living.

  Did you know?
The majority of Chinese own bicycles instead of cars. In cities, bicycle jams are common; however, Chinese are increasingly using rapid transit, taxis and cars.