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.