The impact of family functioning and mental health condition on the child’s behavioral problems
Qian Wang (Capital Medical University) and Ting Zhou (Beijing University of Chinese Medicine) 2015, 43(7), 1135–1146

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who is an only child, who also is the parent of an only child, about whether or not it is important to grow up with siblings. As I am biased in regard to my friend, I would argue not, in that she does not display any of the negative characteristics that are often associated with only children. However, I would be quick to point out that this will in some part have to do with her parents. They are both fine people who can, to an extent, take credit for their daughter’s personality and conduct. 

Whereas only children are relatively uncommon in New Zealand (the home of most SBP staff), this is not the case in China, where until recently a one-child policy was implemented. So it was with interest that I read Wang and Zhou’s study, in which they “examined correlates of mental health conditions among family members and explored the effects of mothers’ and fathers’ mental health and family functioning on their child’s behavioral problems” (p. 1135).

The researchers made some departures from methods used in previous (mainly Western) studies in that they investigated both the mother and the father, and focused on the one-child family unit. In the past, the focus has been on the relationship with the mother; postnatal depression being one condition that causes due concern about not only the mother, but also their partner and child. The authors state that “China has been a patriarchal society for a long period of time” (p. 1137) so it is appropriate that the father–child dynamic receives attention. The justification for choosing to limit their study to one-child families was that the “limited size of family unit means that connections among family members become closer. Accordingly, the impact of the father’s mental health on the child’s mental health might also be enhanced” (p. 1137).

Results showed that “the mental health status of family members was closely correlated” and that “parental mental health was positively correlated with family functioning” (p. 1142). It is always pleasing when there is research undertaken that challenges stereotypes, especially when it leads us to question the causes and implications of children’s behavior and further examine the mental health of families.

Emily Duncan | Copyeditor
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal