China’s Changing Family Structure and Adolescent Development

Social Sciences in China

Vol. 40, No. 4, 2019


China’s Changing Family Structure and Adolescent Development



Wu Yuxiao, Wang Peng and Du Sijia


This paper examines the relationship between family structure and junior high school students’ educational and psychosocial development and its intermediate mechanisms. Our findings show, firstly, that family structure affects children’s development, and children living with both parents have better educational and psychosocial development than those without one or both parents. Secondly, family structure affects children’s development to some extent through the two mechanisms of family socioeconomic status and parental participation in education. Thirdly, fathers and mothers play different roles in children’s development. Mothers are more important to children’s educational development, while fathers are more important to their psychosocial development. In addition, the distribution of family structure shows marked group heterogeneity, and families lacking both parents tend to be groups with a lower socioeconomic status. Since adolescent development is closely related to the acquisition of socioeconomic status in adulthood, the negative impact of parental absence on children’s development should not be neglected by academics and policy researchers.


Keywords: family structure, educational development, psychosocial development, socioeconomic status, parental participation in education