Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) Family, Peer Social Capital and Romantic Involvement of Chinese Adolescents (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

86P (WITHDRAWN) Family, Peer Social Capital and Romantic Involvement of Chinese Adolescents

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Xiaochen Zhou, Phd, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Jia Li, Postdoctoral Fellow, Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Qi Wang, Postdoctoral Fellow, HKU
Background and Purpose:

Romantic involvement is a milestone for youth development. However, the profile, as well as the factors related to the formation of it, remains under-investigated in the Chinese context.A tight family relationship with strong family social capital may delay adolescents’ seeking of intimacy outside the family. However, as youth gradually detaching with their original families and establishing independence, the influence of families may be fading, and the impact of peer relationships may become ascendant. The influence of peers, either their behaviors or norms, started emerging as an important factor that may have an impact on the formation of romantic relationships. The study explores the association of family and peer social capital and heterosexual romantic involvement among Chinese adolescents.


A national dataset--China Education Panel Survey (CEPS) was applied (N=7,774; average age: 13.92; boy: 50.84%). The study adopts a quantitative analysis approach with latent class analysis (LCA) to identify the profile of key variables--romantic involvement and family social capital. A series of regression models were built to further investigate the relationship between family and peer social capital and heterosexual romantic involvement. Moderation analysis was conducted to explore the difference between the associations across genders.


In this study, 8.67% of the young Chinese adolescents were identified to have a relatively high level of romantic involvement. A higher level of family social capital was related to a lower likelihood of romantic involvement, while a larger peer network, peers’ positive norms, and engagement of early romance had significantly positive associations with romantic involvement. Girls reported a significantly lower rate of romantic involvement.

Conclusions and Implications:

The study offers a lens to understand romantic involvement in China, that it is not merely an individualized initiative but intersects with familial relationships and peer norms, especially the latter. Peers’ high level of romantic involvement may serve as a buffer from socio-cultural stigma for girls.In light of the negative effects of romantic involvement and potentially subsequentially risky sexual behaviors, this study calls for more focus on the surrounding environments of children in influencing their behaviors. This may be particularly true in a society like China with remaining high familial and collectivist values. As family stills play an important role in children’s daily lives, to promote romance-related and sex-related education among parents and encourage effective parent-child communication in such topics, may help to understand the youth early pre-coital behaviors. Moreover, this study revealed the importance of peer relationship in youth romantic involvement, therefore, using a social norm approach when promoting information related to romantic relationships may be useful.