ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 53 ›› Issue (1): 67-80.

• Reports of Empirical Studies •

### Reciprocal relations between relative deprivation and psychological adjustment among single-parent children in China: A longitudinal study

XIONG Meng1,2, LIU Ruojin1, YE Yiduo3()

1. 1 Department of Psychology, School of Educaiton and Sport Sciences, Yangtze University, Jingzhou 434023, China
2 Department of Psychology, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH89JZ, UK
3 School of Psychology, Fujian Normal University, Fuzhou 350117, China
• Received:2019-10-12 Published:2021-01-25 Online:2020-11-24
• Contact: YE Yiduo E-mail:yeyiduo@163.com
• Supported by:
Youth Project of National Office for Education Sciences Planning of China: A longitudinal study on the mechanisms and effects of relative deprivation on psychosocial adjustment of Chinese disadvantaged children(EBA160408))

Abstract:

Increasing divorce rates in China have led to greater numbers of children growing up in single-parent homes. Previous studies have indicated that such single-parent children reported greater senses of relative deprivation and more psychological adjustment problems than their counterparts in undivided families. However, few studies have yet examined associations between relative deprivation and psychological adjustment and their directions. We thus explored characteristics of relative deprivation, psychological adjustment, and associations among them over 1.5 years beginning March, 2017. A sample of 273 single-parent children (50.5% boys) was recruited from two primary schools and two junior high schools in Hubei, China. Attrition was relatively minor; namely, 93.4% of participants completed all surveys during three assessment waves.

Participants provided self-report data on individual and group cognitive and individual and group affective relative deprivation, and depression, loneliness, social anxiety, and self-esteem, as well as demographic variables (i.e., gender, academic period, and family economic status). All the measures had good reliability and validity. Results indicated that the relative deprivation of single-parent children was not obvious, and psychological adjustment was generally good. Boys reported higher levels of depression and loneliness than girls. Moreover, single-parent children with poor family economic status reported higher levels of relative deprivation, depression, and loneliness, as well as lower levels of self-esteem than their counterparts.

To explore the possible reciprocal relations between relative deprivation and psychological adjustment, as well as to separate between-person effects from within-person effects, we analyzed data by using the random intercepts cross-lagged panel model (RI-CLPM). Results showed that there were reciprocal relations between relative deprivation and psychological adjustment at the within-person level when controlling for between-person effects and key demographic variables. Specifically, initial relative deprivation significantly negatively predicted psychological adjustment at Time 2, which in turn negatively predicted relative deprivation at Time 3. Moreover, relative deprivation at Time 2 also negatively predicted psychological adjustment at Time 3. These reciprocal relations between relative deprivation and psychological adjustment did not differ by gender and academic period (i.e., primary or secondary school). However, the association between psychological adjustment and relative deprivation was stronger for single-parent children with poor family economic status than for those with good family economic status.

These observations expand the understanding of the complex relations between relative deprivation and psychological adjustment among single-parent children in China. Additionally, they have important implications for intervention and improvement of mental health for vulnerable groups, especially single-parent children. For instance, programs that aim to improve the mental health of single-parent children and to reduce the levels of relative deprivation among this vulnerable group may be helpful in breaking the detrimental cycle between relative deprivation and psychological adjustment.