Differential impacts of social support on mental health: A comparison study of Chinese rural-to-urban migrant adolescents and their urban counterparts in Beijing, China

Author(s): Xiao Yu ZHUANG ; Daniel Fu Keung WONG



Background: The number of internal migrant children in China has reached 35.8 million by the end of 2010. Previous studies revealed inconsistent findings regarding the mental health status of rural-to-urban migrant adolescents, as well as the impact of peer, teacher and parental support on the mental health of Chinese adolescent migrants.

Aims: Using a comparative approach, this study attempted to compare the mental health status between migrant and urban-born adolescents and to clarify the specific roles of different sources of social support in the mental health of migrant and urban adolescents.

Method: A cross-sectional survey using a cluster convenience sampling strategy was performed in Beijing, China. A structured questionnaire was filled out by 368 rural-to-urban migrant adolescents and 325 urban-born adolescents.

Results: A significant difference was found only for positive affect (PA) but not for negative affect (NA) between the two groups, favouring the urban-born adolescents. Social support from all the three sources were all predictive of PA among rural-to-urban migrant adolescents, while only peer support contributed to PA among urban-born adolescents. Unexpectedly, teachers’ support contributed to an increase in NA among urban-born adolescents.

Conclusion: The findings contribute to understanding of the mental health status of migrant adolescents in China and the differential impact of the various sources of social support on migrant and urban-born adolescents. Also the findings may inform the development of mental health services and programmes that can potentially benefit a large number of internal migrant adolescents in China.

Keywords: Rural-to-urban migration, social support, mental health, Chinese

Tags: Internal migration, Adolescents, Social support, China

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