Parent- and Teacher-Reported Problems of Children in Divorced Chinese Families

Although far lower than in western countries, divorce rates in Mainland China are rising rapidly. To assess possible associations between divorce and children’s problems, a team of Chinese and Japanese researchers used CBCL/4-18 and TRF data from a stratified random sample of 4,862 Chinese children (Liu et al., 2000).

Children of divorced parents were demographically matched to control children from nondivorced families. After adjusting for differences in family income, Liu et al. found that children from divorced families scored significantly higher than control children on all CBCL problem scales and on TRF Social Problems, Attention Problems, and Total Problems scales.

In addition, odds ratios showed that significantly more children from divorced families than control children scored above the Chinese clinical cutpoint on the TRF Attention Problems scale. Parents’ ratings may have shown more pervasive differences between the two groups of children because stresses in the home were more intertwined with parent than teacher reports.

Nevertheless, the significantly elevated proportion of children from divorced families scoring above the cutpoint on the TRF Attention Problems scale, as well as their higher mean scores on the TRF Attention Problems, Social Problems, and Total Problems scales, indicated that important differences in problems were seen by teachers as well as by parents.

Although Liu et al. pointed out that no causal link could be established from their cross-sectional data, they concluded that public health officials and clinicians need to attend to the potential problems of children in divorced families even in Chinese culture, where divorce rates are low. 

Reference: Liu, X., Guo, C., Okawa, M., Zhai, J., Li, Y., Uchiyama, M., Neiderhiser, J.M., & Kurita, H. (2000). Behavioral and emotional problems in Chinese children of divorced parents. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 39, 896-903.