The impact of students with left-behind experiences on childhood: The relationship between negative life events and depression among college students in China

Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2018 Feb;64(1):56-62. doi: 10.1177/0020764017739332. Epub 2017 Nov 16.

Abstract

Background: The number of left-behind children in rural China has increased dramatically over the last decade. It is reported that about 21.88% of child population with an estimated number of 61 million are left-behind children whose parents leave them to work in cities. We conducted a cross-sectional study to explore the impacts of left-behind experience (LBE) on college students' depression and other influencing factors.

Aim: This study discusses the mediation effect of self-esteem together with psychological resilience on college students with depression and negative life events of left-behind. The study also discusses the regulation effect of LBE.

Methods: A total of 788 college students were selected from three universities in Sichuan and Chongqing (367 with LBEs, 421 without LBEs). Adolescent Self-Rating Life Events Check List (ASLEC), Self-Esteem Scale (SES), Resilience Scale of Chinese Adolescent (RSCA) and Self-Rating Depression Scale (SDS) were used to measure the negative life events, self-esteem, psychological resilience and depression, respectively. Bootstrap program was used to test the mediation effect, and multiple-group analysis was used to examine the regulation effect for LBE.

Results: Scores of ASLEC for the college students with LBEs were higher than those without LBEs (8.59 ± 3.57) vs (7.06 ± 3.38), p < .001). The scores of LBE, ASLEC and SDS were positively correlated with the college students with LBEs ( r = .21 to .29, p < .01), while the scores of RSCA and SES were negatively correlated ( r = -.30 to -.59, p < .01). The mediation effect of college students' self-esteem and psychological resilience between negative life events and depression was significant (mediating effect = .08, .13, .07; p < .01). Thus, the college students' self-esteem and psychological resilience on negative life events had strong mediation effect on depression. The test of Bootstrap showed that the mediation effect of self-esteem and psychological resilience was significant (95% confidence interval (CI) = [0.04-0.76]). The LBE had regulation effect on college students' self-esteem and psychological resilience. (The constraint model fitting degree of variation is Δχ2 = 2,120.68, Δ df = 8, p < .001.) The self-esteem and psychological resilience of college students with LBEs can be used to mediate the relation between negative life events and depression, whereas those without LBEs cannot.

Conclusion: Self-esteem and psychological resilience fully mediates college students' negative life events and depression, which is regulated by their previous LBEs.

Keywords: Left-behind experience; depression; negative life events; psychological resilience; self-esteem.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Abandoned / psychology*
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Resilience, Psychological
  • Rural Population
  • Self Concept
  • Students / psychology*
  • Young Adult