Family and work lives of lesbians in China: Implications for the adult worker model

Iris Po Yee Lo (Corresponding Author), Emma H. Liu, Sam Wai Kam Yu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the ways in which lesbians explore opportunities and navigate constraints in their family and work lives in urban China. It not only reveals Chinese lesbians’ difficulties in gaining equal access to the labour market and developing their desired family lives, but also discusses possible ways of enhancing the applicability of the adult worker model for sexual minority women. Previous research has indicated a shift from the male breadwinner model to the adult worker model, suggesting that both men and women are expected to join the labour market, and that women should not carry all the care responsibilities within the family. However, the model largely overlooks the interplay of gender and sexuality factors in shaping work and family lives. This article adopts a qualitative mixed-methods approach, including interviews with 20 Chinese lesbians and social media analysis, to examine lesbians’ experiences of taking part in the family as adults and in the wider economy as workers. It shows how gender norms, heteronormativity, and policy intersect in generating obstacles for Chinese lesbians to thrive as respectable adult workers. This has important implications for attempts to improve the adult worker model to fit better with people’s diverse work/family needs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6390
Pages (from-to)6390
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • adult worker model
  • male breadwinner model
  • labour market
  • assisted reproduction
  • parent
  • gender
  • sexuality
  • heteronormativity
  • lesbian
  • work-family policy


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