Table of Contents


Definition of Deviance

The difference between abstract harm and tangible gain

Costs exclusible

Diffusion and information of responsibility

Legal versus ethical

In conclusion,


Original: This paper will discuss the effects of climate change

Paraphrased: This article will examine the repercussions of climate change

In the late 1970s, the Chinese government realised that it was facing a crisis. They were aware of their rapidly growing population and the difficulty that would arise for the government if things continued as they were. “At the time of 1982’s census, China already had over 1 billion citizens, and if the current trend continues, it could have 1.4 billion by century’s end” (Kane & Choi, 1999, p.992). To slow down the massive population increase, the One Child Policy was implemented. The policy was announced for the first time in 1979 to help curb population growth.

This policy was not intended to have such unintended effects. Many of them were the result of the cultural belief that boys are more desirable than females. Thirty years after, the SRB was 118 in 2010. The number of males born per 100 females is 118, which is higher than the average global figure of 105 (Shi & Kennedy (2016), p.1019). This disparity can be attributed to several factors, such as an increase in abortions or an under-reporting of births.

John M. Darley states that an organization “can be pushed towards evil by members in a way they never intended” (Darley 1996), page 14. In this instance, the government imposed a policy limiting the number children citizens were allowed to have. This was done to avoid a negative impact on the country from the increasing population.

Orphanages took this opportunity to profit from the increased number of unwanted children and made a lot of money by adopting them internationally. As the number of babies abandoned decreased, orphanages began engaging in deviant behaviour. Human trafficking, also known as deviant behaviour, can be a result of abstract harm, tangible gain or diffusion information and responsibility. In China, the implementation and impact of one child policy has shown how people can be encouraged to do deviant things. This is especially true in terms of human trafficking.

Definition of DevianceDefining deviance is necessary before discussing its causes and effects. Deviance is defined as creating an unethical system intentionally or inadvertently. Ermann and Lundman state in their book Corporate and Governemental Deviance that “organizational leaders can indirectly encourage deviant behavior by establishing rules, rewards and punishments which encourage deviance”.

In this situation, punishments included fines and penalties for families who had more than one child. The result was an increase of abandoned children. They included in the adoption of international children a requirement that parents make a $3000 donation to an orphanage. It was a reward for orphanages that allowed international adoptions. This is likely what triggered the later trafficking.

In order to understand China better, it’s important to learn about their history. This includes the adoption policies and the orphanages. Orphanages in China were crowded with girls abandoned by the One Child Policy. “Yet in the 90s, the requirement for adopters to be over 35 without having children severely limited how many families could adopt children legally. The restrictions did not stop illegal adoptions, but they did prevent them. This increased the burden placed on government orphanages.

The lack of funding, resources, and staffing in many of these institutions made it difficult for them to provide care for their children (Chinese Orphanages : A Follow-Up, 1996, p. 5) According to Human Rights Watch/Asia’s report, conditions in many places were horrendous and resulted in an astronomically high mortality rate between 1988-1992.

In 1992 “the Chinese Government enacted 1992 Adoption Law of China”, allowing international adoptions. Since the decision, many adopted children from abroad have gone to the United States. US citizens adopted more than 8,000 Chinese children between 1992 and 2005. Multiple reasons made adopting children from China desirable.

There were fewer “administrative obstacles” than in other countries. “China’s adoption procedures for intercountry adoption allow singles and people in their fifties and older to adopt Chinese Children.” (Gates, 1999, page 384). Many of these families knew about the Chinese one-child policy, and believed they were doing their part to prevent the girls from being placed in an orphanage.

China relaxed its domestic adoption restrictions and improved the standard-of-living, which resulted in fewer babies being abandoned. As a result, there were fewer healthy children available for international adoption. The demand for international adoptive families remained, but the orphanages became accustomed to receiving funds for adoptions overseas (Leland 2011, 2011). A lack of children and increased demand led some orphanages to seek other ways to get children.

Darley (1996) says that abstract harm or tangible gain may be the reason people engage in deviant behaviour. Darley defines abstract hurt as “an act that results in harm for others, but that does not initially have a clear target or a salient victim.”

In contrast, tangible gains are easy to observe and come in many forms, such as money or goals. In the Chinese adoption programs and orphanages we can see some examples of this. To make it easier for orphanages to place children up to adoption, they would often falsify documents. The adoption of children from traffickers can be harmful to their birthparents, adoptive parents and even the child themselves.

As we have already mentioned, an abstract harm occurs if a person is harmed unintentionally by a particular action. It is possible that traffickers found the children in the street, but it’s unlikely. Sometimes traffickers kidnapped children, or government workers took them because they violated the one-child rule. “Family Planning used to come into play if a parent had more than one child. They’d either smash down the house or take your pig.

Orphanages that joined the program for international adoption saw their situation change. “Family planning officials would bring the unregistered children to the institution, which would then reward them, while the institution would then adopt the child overseas” (Amazon Studios).

They increased the likelihood that the birthparents who lost their child would be unable to locate them by falsifying the details of the children they had found and where they lived. The adoptive parents are at a great disadvantage because they have invested a lot of money and time to bring a new child into their family.

The fear of being reclaimed by the birth parents is a real possibility if they believe that their child was really taken. The children who are caught in the middle of it all suffer a lot of harm. The children who are taken as children may not be able to cope with the fact that they have been removed from their biological family. They may not be able to handle the news if, by chance, they do find out they were adopted as a baby.

Research-China is an organization that helps parents learn more about China’s adoptions and orphanages. It has found that it’s not unusual for adopted kids to refuse to even meet their birthparents. Learning about their birthparents would only complicate their lives, especially after believing for years that they didn’t want them.

The orphanages probably did not do it on purpose, but they certainly did. The orphanages were more concerned about the tangible benefit they would get from the donation. The children and parents that they were harming had no connection with them. At that time, it was common to see abandoned babies. It was also easier to falsify records rather than search for the birth parents.

Sunk CostsSunk Costs are another cause of deviant behaviors. Darley (1996) defines “sunk costs” as “commitments generated by a first decision, most often the decision to invest in financial or other resource into a plan of action”(Darley, 1996, p.21). Orphanages, as well foreign parents who adopt children, can both be considered sunk costs.

Orphanages spend money on the care of children they care for, as well as buying children from child traffickers. They invested these funds in hopes that foreign families would adopt children and pay for the orphanage’s mandatory donation. Due to their investment, they decided to put the children up for adoption internationally instead of trying to find their birth parents.

Parents adopting Chinese children had also incurred costs which influenced their behaviour. They have invested a great deal of money and time in the adoption process. The amount of attention and love they show their new child is perhaps even more important.

They believe that this child is theirs. Many parents didn’t know what to do when it became known that it could be possible that the children adopted were stolen from birth parents. Orphanages may have lied to parents about the way they located the children. Parents were furious, but they also worried that they would be forced to return their adopted children. As a consequence, many parents went into defensive mode and would not talk to anyone about their suspicions.

Brian Stuy has had this experience. “When Brian Stuy has been able to get in touch with birth parents, most are happy to find out that their child is alive, healthy, well-adjusted and in a good family. Stuy says that the majority of adoptive parents are hiding. “When they are suspicious, they will not come forward.” (Leland 2011).

Long Lan, his wife, explains what parents feel. “When i told the story to some U.S. adoption parents, their reaction was shocking. The parents were in complete denial. They thought that their daughter’s adoption might have resulted in her being taken from her birth parents. They also feared their daughter being forcedly sent back to China. They were afraid that they’d lost her and would immediately cut off communication with us.

Both orphanages as well as parents are guilty of this behavior. Both orphanages and parents invested money and time into children they could not get back. Orphanages paid for babies to gain money from parents abroad, while parents did not speak out against the corruption in orphanages.

Diffusion of Responsibility and Information”Diffusion of responsibility is another source of organizational harmdoing” (Darley, 1996, p. 18). Adoption agencies in China “promoted the adoption program as being the most stable and transparent program.” Even in the early 2000s, there were few articles on trafficking. This was despite reports about traffickers selling children to orphanages in China.

It was obvious that the problem was bigger than anyone had thought. Darley (1996) says that knowledge is required for responsibility. Darley (1996) states that “If I don’t have knowledge that harm may be imminent, then I can’t prevent that harm.” This concept is applicable to both parents who adopt and to the adoption agencies that connect the parents to orphanages.

Many parents looking to adopt thought that adoption agencies were doing their homework and that orphanages would be trustworthy. Many orphanages falsified the documents for the children. For example, one woman claimed that her Guangxi girl was adopted along with 11 other infants of roughly the same age and returned home with a detailed account of her 11-month orphanage experience. However, ‘her’ information matched word-for-word that of the families who adopted the 11 children at the time. This made it impossible to believe” (Leland).

Orphanages who bought trafficked kids were known to do this, and even though it was suspicious, parents rarely questioned the practice. Three hundred and forty-two adoptive Chinese parents were surveyed. “Two-thirds claimed they “never”, while one in nine admitted they sometimes thought of it.

To halt a current process due to the possibility of future harm requires an act, whereas allowing normal processes to continue without action is acceptable. So, intervention decisions are often made based on overwhelming evidence …”. It is much easier to just let things go on as they are instead of doing anything to stop them. Parents and adoption agencies find it easier to stay the course unless there’s conclusive information that the orphanages are corrupt.

Many adoption professionals believe that these reports are isolated incidents, even though orphanages have been reported to buy children on multiple occasions. Instead of taking any action and asking for clarifications that could damage relationships or cause business losses, many adoption agencies, as well adopting parents, continue to let it happen. They’ve decided that they are not responsible for it, and so the problem isn’t theirs.

Legal versus EthicsAccording to China and the United Nations, the sale of infants to orphanages in traffickers’ hands is considered human trafficking. Human trafficking is defined by the United Nations as the recruitment of, transportation of, transfer of, harboring or receiving of persons using improper means, such as force, abduction or fraud for a purpose that is not intended, such as forced labor or exploitation. (U.S. Department of Justice). China’s law also criminalizes “abductions and trafficking of Women or Children” which is defined as “a number of acts (e.g. abductions, kidnappings and purchases, sellings, sendings and receivings) to sell women and children”.

According to the US Government, human trafficking includes “sex traficking, in which a commercial act of sexual exploitation is induced using force, deception, or coercion” or “the recruitment of, housing, transporting, providing, obtaining, or providing a worker or service through the use of coercion to the end of involuntary slave labor, peonage and debt bondage”.

According to this definition, the United States government could argue that the situation in China does not constitute human trafficking because the children aren’t being sold as slaves or for sexual exploitation. Adoption agencies have used this defense when parents of Chinese adopted children and others confronted them about Chinese orphanages selling children.

This definition is a good one. It ensures that there are no violations of the law or deviant behaviors. In the end, babies who would otherwise have been orphaned in the United States now find homes. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s ethical. As discussed above, orphanages are causing harm by buying children from human traffickers. According to Paul and Elder, orphanages who do good without harm are acting unethically. The United States law governing the legality in selling babies to orphanages also falls under the category of unethical behavior.

ConclusionThe implementation China’s One Child Policy resulted in widespread deviations due to abstract and tangible harm, sunk expenses, and the diffusion of information and responsibility. Deviant behaviors were a result of the punishing of parents who have more than 2 children. This led to babies being abandoned and orphanages receiving donations from foreign adopting families.

This was harmful to the parents of the babies who lost their children and the adoptive parents that feared for their adopted child’s safety. And it also caused pain to the children adopted who had accept they were being trafficked. The United States may not consider baby sales to orphanages human trafficking but the damage it caused is evident.


  • rhysgraham

    Rhys Graham is an educational blogger and professor who writes about topics such as literacy, mathematics, and science. He has written several books, including one on the history of science. He is also the co-founder of the website Learn Out Loud, which helps educators create and share classroom activities.