Risk and resilience of Chinese migrant adolescents : in comparison with urban counterparts

中國流動青少年的危機與心理彈性 : 一項同城市青少年的對比研究

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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  • Xiaoyu ZHUANG


Awarding Institution
Award date2 Oct 2015


Background: It is estimated that approximately 28.8 million migrant children have resided in cities in China by the end of 2010. Previous studies all put forward that migrant children and their parents were faced with institutionalized discrimination and restricted access to social welfare system. Even though migrant children have attracted more and more attentions of scholars and researchers, studies that specifically focus on adolescence are scarce. Moreover, there is a lack of studies that explore positive aspect of mental health under the context of internal migration in China. Previous studies indicated that migrant children and adolescents were suffering from worse mental health problems, recent studies that anchored in resilience framework found that migrant children and adolescents did not necessarily showed worse mental health conditions than their urban counterparts. Objective: Anchoring in resilience framework, the present study aims at comparing mental health conditions of migrant adolescents and their urban counterparts. In addition, the study also aims at exploring risk and protective factors that influence mental health of migrant adolescents and examining a resilience model that would predict positive adaptation of migrant adolescents in China. Methods: A cross-sectional survey design comparing migrant and local adolescents in China was adopted in the present study. A convenience sampling strategy was used to recruit migrant adolescents and urban adolescents from various districts based on the population distribution of migrant workers in Beijing. Totally 368 migrant adolescents from migrant children schools and 325 urban adolescents from public schools were recruited. Measurements include: (1) the Social Support Appraisal Scale (APP); (2) the Selection, Optimization and Compensation scale (SOC); (3) the Adolescent Life Event Questionnaire (ALEQ); (4) the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS); (5) The Positive and Negative Affect Scale for Children (PANAS-C); and (6) the Resilience Scale for Adolescents (READ). All the measurements were validated under the Chinese context. Results: Unexpectedly, independent sample t-tests showed that there were no significant differences in terms of negative affect between local and migrant adolescents. However, urban adolescents reported significantly higher levels of positive affect and life satisfaction than migrant adolescents. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed that social support from parents, teachers and friends were all significant protective factors toward positive affect of migrant adolescents. However, only peer support significantly predicted positive affect of urban adolescents. What is more interesting is that teacher support positively predicted negative affect of urban adolescents. A resilience-based model that incorporates all the studied variables was examined through structural equation modeling (SEM). It was found that social support and intentional self-regulation were protective factors that mediated the negative impact of stressful life events on resilience status and affective status for migrant adolescents rather than urban adolescents. Conclusion: Stressful life events are risk factors that influence resilience status and mental health outcomes of migrant adolescents. Social support and intentional self-regulation are important protective factors that mediate the negative impact of stressful life events. The finding that social support contributes to resilience and mental health outcomes through strengthening intentional self-regulation fills the gap that no previous research has tested the interrelations of social support and self-regulation in explaining the protective mechanism of social support. Moreover, intentional self-regulation as an important human agency is found to exert protective functions specifically to migrant adolescents, which provides theoretical implications to resilience model building and practical implications to intervention program design that aims at promoting resilience of migrant adolescents.

    Research areas

  • Psychology, Internal migrants, Psychological aspects, Adolescent psychology, Life change events, China, Stress in adolescence, Resilience (Personality trait) in adolescence