2003 Volume 50 Issue 1 Pages 15-26
Objective This study investigated psychosocial factors underlying the mental health problems of single-child high school students in China, where society and the family situation have been rapidly changing since introduction of the open-economy policy.
Method Three hundred and ten college-bound high school students in Heilong Jiangsheng Harbin completed self-administrative questionnaires in February, 2000. The subjects were divided into single-child and non single-child groups. Analysis of correlations was performed for general attributes, mental conditions measured by General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), personality variables, stressors, and emotion support network. Cause-and-effect factors were also analyzed using Covariance Analysis.
Result In the single-child and in non single-child groups, the percentage suffering neurotic tendencies were 73% and 39%, and the values for a tendency to depression were 63% and 25%, respectively. In the single-child group, anxiety, interpersonal dependence, and perceived stressors were significantly higher while the perceived self-esteem and emotional support from family members were significantly lower than in the non single-child group. Among the variables, having siblings was highly correlated with all the measured factors influencing mental health. The results indicated that a poor emotional support network could cause low self-esteem, high anxiety trait, strong interpersonal dependence, and increased sensitivity to stressors and worsening of mental health.
Conclusion The incidence of mental health related problems was found to be significantly higher in the single-children than in the non single-children. Thus having siblings has positive effects on mental health. The emotional support network also plays an important role in the mental condition, development of a healthy personality, and building a positive attitude toward stressors.