Only-Child Status in Relation to Perceived Stress and Studying-Related Life Satisfaction among University Students in China: A Comparison with International Students

PLoS One. 2015 Dec 16;10(12):e0144947. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144947. eCollection 2015.


Objectives: University students in general face multiple challenges, which may affect their levels of perceived stress and life satisfaction. Chinese students currently face specific strains due to the One-Child Policy (OCP). The aim of this study was to assess (1) whether the levels of perceived stress and studying-related life satisfaction are associated with only-child (OC) status after controlling for demographic and socio-economic characteristics and (2) whether these associations differ between Chinese and international students.

Materials and methods: A cross-sectional health survey based on a self-administrated standardised questionnaire was conducted among 1,843 (1,543 Chinese, 300 international) students at two Chinese universities in 2010-2011. Cohen's Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-14) and Stock and Kraemer's Studying-related Life Satisfaction Scale were used to measure perceived stress and studying-related life satisfaction respectively. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were used to examine the associations of OC status with perceived stress and studying-related life satisfaction by sex for Chinese students and international students separately.

Results: The Chinese non-only-children (NOCs) were more likely to come from small cities. Multivariable regression models indicate that the Chinese NOCs were more stressed than OCs (OR = 1.39, 1.11-1.74) with a stronger association in men (OR = 1.48, 1.08-2.02) than women (OR = 1.26, 0.89-1.77). NOCs were also more dissatisfied than their OC fellows in the Chinese subsample (OR = 1.37, 1.09-1.73). Among international students, no associations between OC status and perceived stress or studying-related life satisfaction were found.

Conclusions: To promote equality between OCs and NOCs at Chinese universities, the causes of more stress and less studying-related life satisfaction among NOCs compared to OCs need further exploration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • China
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Planning Policy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Students*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The authors acknowledge support of the publication fee by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the Open Access Publication Funds of Bielefeld University.