Changing Sexual Attitudes in Urban East Asia: Extramarital Births and Premarital Conception in Hong Kong

Stuart A. Basten, University of Oxford

In much of the western world, where to normative power of marriage as a ‘key’ to childbearing has waned significantly and co-habitation has become accepted, premarital conception is far from a ‘hot topic’. However, in East Asia, where childbearing within marriage is still very much the norm and extramarital births are rarer, premarital conception is an important ‘grey area’ where significant changes can tell us much about societal- and individual-level changes regarding attitudes towards marriage. In this paper, we analyse new data from the Hong Kong Birth Registers and find a significant increase in both the number of extramarital births and premarital conceptions - which account for 29% of all first births in the territory. Preliminary analysis suggests important differences within individual societal groups. This finding forces us to re-evaluate our understanding of the marriage system in Hong Kong and asks new questions about changing gender roles and sexual attitudes.

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Presented in Session 141: Family Planning and Reproductive Health in the Asian Context