ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

›› 2009, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (12): 1165-1174.

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Effect of Family Functioning on Adolescents’ Alienation: Moderated Mediating Effect

XU Fu-Zhen,ZHANG Wen-Xin,ZHANG Ling-Ling   

  1. (1 School of Psychology, Shandong Normal University, Jinan 250014, China)
    (2 Shandong Teaching and Research Office, Shandong Province, Jinan 250011, China)
  • Received:2009-07-07 Revised:1900-01-01 Published:2009-12-30 Online:2009-12-30
  • Contact: ZHANG Wen-Xin

Abstract: Alienation is a negative emotional state, reflecting individual impotence in dealing with others and establishing an effective bond with social groups, such as among family, classmates and peers. While modest alienation is good for psycho-social development, high levels of alienation may negatively impact development. Adolescence is a period of heightened risk for high levels of alienation.
Research on the relationship between the family environment and peer relations revealed that higher conflicts among numbers of family as well as weak or unhealthy family functioning could lead to adolescents feeling alienated from their parents and resisting inclusion in their family. Those who scored high on the alienation scale usually lived in a troubled family, where family members experienced a lack of close relationships and self-control, and were unable to adapt to social experiences properly. However, peer groups are another necessary micro-system that play an important role in adolescents psychological social development. Good peer relations can provide adolescents with valuable information and feelings of support; and positive peer acceptance can help alienated adolescents alleviate the sense of stress and anxiety. But neither family environment nor peer acceptance can affect adolescents’ alienation on its own. Research is needed to examine the interaction between the effects of the family environment and peer acceptance.
The majority of research on adolescent alienation has been conducted in Western cultures, and information on how contemporary Chinese adolescents experience alienation is still limited. In the past two decades, China has experienced profound transformations; rapid social and economic development has changed the family structure through socioeconomic status and general family functioning. It is thus necessary to explore the alienation characteristics of Chinese adolescents from a systemic perspective, and to find the interaction mechanisms of family functioning and peer acceptance.
The present study investigated the effect of family socioeconomic status, family functioning, and peer acceptance on adolescents’ feelings of alienation in contemporary China. The Adolescent Alienation Scale, Family Function Scale, Family SES measure and Peer Nomination survey were administered to 608 adolescents (317 boys and 291 girls) attending junior and senior high school in Jinan City, Shandong Province, using Structural Equation Model Analysis. Results were as follows: (1) There was a significant difference between school-age stages; senior high school students reported higher alienation than students from junior high school. (2) A significant difference was found among three dimensions of adolescents’ alienation; environmental alienation was highest, followed by social alienation, and interpersonal alienation being the lowest. (3) Family functioning could fully mediate the relationship between family socioeconomic status and adolescent alienation. That is, parents’ education level, their professions, and the family’s income could affect adolescents’ alienation through influencing family functioning. However, the mediating effect of family functioning was moderated by peer acceptance. High peer acceptance could actually protect adolescents who were in a family with poor functioning from high alienation. In fact, family functioning, as a moderated mediator, had an effect on adolescents’ alienation. These results imply that we could assist adolescents with high alienation by improving their family socioeconomic status, improving their family functioning, and helping them build positive peer relations.

Key words: adolescent, alienation, family functioning, peer acceptance