The Significance of Family Structure in Internalizing (Anxious/Depressed) and Externalizing (Aggressive/Delinquent) Problems among Chinese Adolescents

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

3 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations


Original languageEnglish
Journal / PublicationApplied Research in Quality of Life
Online published19 Feb 2021
Publication statusOnline published - 19 Feb 2021


The present pioneering study investigated the differences across various types of family structure among Chinese adolescents with proactive and reactive aggression. It aimed at providing frontline social workers and family therapists with inspirations for designing suitable interventions for adolescents with specific subtypes of aggressive behavior from different family structure backgrounds. After completing an online survey including the Reactive and Proactive Aggression Questionnaire (RPQ) and the subscales of the Child Behavior Checklist – Youth Self-report (CBCL-YSR) on aggressive behavior, delinquent behavior, and anxious/depressed symptom, 520 out of 13,338 Chinese adolescents aged 11 to 18 were randomly selected and stratified based on the types of family structure (intact family, single father family, single mother family, stepfather family, and stepmother family). Expectedly, boys elicited more proactive aggression, delinquent behaviors, and aggressive behaviors than girls. Besides, significant cross-structural differences were found between children from stepmother family, who showed more proactive aggression, anxious/depressed symptoms, aggressive behaviors, and delinquent behaviors, and those from intact family regardless of gender. The interaction effects between gender and family structure were significant for reactive aggression, anxious/depressed behavior, and aggressive behavior. An interaction effect showed boys from stepmother families were more reactively aggressive than those from intact families. In addition, more anxious/depressed symptoms were found in boys from stepmother family than those from intact and single mother families. In conclusion, the impacts of family structure on proactive aggression and delinquent behavior are not gender specific, but the impacts on reactive aggression and anxious/depressed behavior are only specific to boys.

Research Area(s)

  • Anxious/depressed, Delinquent, Family structure, Gender, Proactive aggression, Reactive aggression