The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Association Between School Connectedness and Depression Among Left-Behind Children in Rural China

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 10:30 AM
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Shuling Gao, PhD, Doctoral student, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
Background and purpose: The left-behind children in rural China refer to those whose parent(s) migrate into urban cities seeking for employment, while leaving them behind in the countryside in the care of grandparent(s) or relatives. Until now, there are more than 58 million left-behind children in rural China. In the absence of proper parental supervision, schools have to shoulder the responsibility to protect these children and promote the healthy development for them. School connectedness, which refers to the extent to which students feel accepted, valued, respected, and included in the school, has recently been examined as one important predictor of mental health. This study aims to examine the association between school connectedness and depression among the left-behind children.

Methods: A cross-sectional study using convenient sampling was conducted. A total of 801 (54.2% girls; 14.3±1.0 years old) students were successfully recruited from one rural middle school in Chongqing. The Psychological Sense of School Membership Scale (PSSM) and the Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) were administered by 674 left-behind children and 127 non-left-behind children during school time. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to test the relationship between school connectedness and depression.

Results: The results of hierarchical linear regression analyses showed that 21.1% variance in depression was explained by school connectedness, when controlling for gender, school grade, and being left-behind or not. Lower level of school connectedness was associated with higher depression symptoms (β = -0.461, p < 0.001). Female children reported more depression than males (β = 0.083, p = 0.008). However, there was no significant difference in depression between left-behind children and non-left-behind children (p = 0.712).

Conclusions and significance: School connectedness was found significantly associated with depression among students, disregarding children being left-behind or not. This study provided empirical evidence for the necessity to enhance the school life quality of both left-behind children and non-left behind children to protect them from depression.

Key words: school connectedness, depression, left-behind children, rural China