Deprivation is negatively linked to adolescent mental health. However, little is known about the underlying process that may mediate this relationship. There is a lack of research addressing this question among impoverished Chinese adolescents. This study aims to examine the association among multidimensional deprivation, peer victimization and adolescent psychological well-being in a Chinese context.
Sample. Data were collected through a multi-stage cluster random sampling in Huai’an City, eastern China. A total sample of 746 children were recruited (response rate 87.9%), with an average age of 11.85 (SD=1.739), 52.8% male.
Measures. Multidimensional Deprivation: Multidimensional deprivation index was calculated according to diversified aspects of deprivation in food, water, hygienic facilities, health care, housing, education, and information. Psychological Well-being: The 14-item Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale was administered to measure psychological well-being of adolescents (Cronbach’s α=0.89). Peer Victimization: The 16-item Multidimensional Peer-Victimization Scale was used to measure each aspect of peer victimization (physical victimization, verbal victimization, social manipulation and attacks on property). The Cronbach’s α of the overall scale was 0.90. Covariates: Participants’ gender, age and household registration (hukou) were controlled in the statistical model.
Analysis. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was adopted to examine the hypothetical model using AMOS 22.0. The model fit was examined with the chi-square, CFI, NFI, SRMR and RMSEA. Firstly, confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) were completed to test the measurement model. Then, the relationship among deprivation, peer victimization and psychological well-being was tested by the structural model. To estimate the direct and indirect effects, a bootstrapping method was used with a 95 % bias-corrected confidence interval.
Both the measurement model and the structural model indicated a good fit to the data. A partially mediated relationship between multidimensional deprivation, peer victimization, and psychological well-being was identified. The relationship between multidimensional deprivation and peer victimization was statistically significant (β=0.161,p<0.001), as was the relationship between peer victimization and psychological well-being (β=-0.291, p<0.001). The direct effect of multidimensional deprivation on psychological well-being remained significant after the addition of the mediation effect of peer victimization (β=-0.201, p<0.001). The results revealed that peer victimization partially mediated the relationship between multidimensional deprivation and psychological well-being after controlling for gender, age and hukou. The whole model accounted for 14.1% of the variance in psychological well-being of impoverished Chinese adolescents.
Conclusions and Implications:
This study contributed to an improved understanding of the mediating mechanism between deprivation andadolescent mental health. In our study, multidimensional deprivation could increase peer victimization, which in turn might harm psychological well-being. This finding underscored the importance and necessity of developing social work interventions and designing social policies targeting reducing deprivation and bullying to improve mental health of young people, especially for Chinese adolescents living in poverty.