This study conducts an exploratory analysis of the impacts of a center-based early childhood development intervention on the mental health of caregivers, using data from a cluster-randomized controlled trial of 1664 caregivers (Mage = 36.87 years old) of 6- to 24-month-old children in 100 villages in rural China. Caregivers and children in 50 villages received individual parenting training, group activities and open play space in village parenting centers. The results show no significant overall change in caregiver-reported mental health symptoms after 1 year of intervention. Subgroup analyses reveal heterogeneous effects by caregiver socioeconomic status and identity (mother vs. grandmother). Findings suggest that early childhood development interventions without targeted mental health components may not provide sufficient support to improve caregiver mental health.
Although children living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) account for 90% of the global population of children, depression, and anxiety among children in LMICs have been understudied. This study examines the prevalence of depression and anxiety and their associations with biological and psychosocial factors among children across China, with a focus on rural areas. We conducted a large-scale epidemiological study of depression and anxiety among 53,421 elementary and junior high school-aged children across China. The results show that 20% are at risk for depression, 6% are at risk for generalized anxiety, and 68% are at risk for at least one type of anxiety. Girls and junior high school students show a higher risk for both depression and anxiety symptoms, while socioeconomic status has varying associations to depression and anxiety symptoms. Our results also show consistent correlations between depression and anxiety symptoms and standard math test scores. These findings underscore the importance of identification, prevention, and treatment of youth depression and anxiety in underdeveloped areas. As China constitutes 15% of the global population of children under age 18, this study offers valuable information to the field of global mental health.
This study documents the COVID-19 disease-control measures enacted in rural China and examines the economic and social impacts of these measures. We conducted two rounds of surveys with 726 randomly selected village informants across seven provinces. Strict disease-control measures have been universally enforced and appear to have been successful in limiting disease transmission in rural communities. The infection rate in our sample was 0.001 per cent, a rate that is near the national average outside of Hubei province. None of the villages reported any COVID-19-related deaths. For a full month during the quarantine, the rate of employment of rural workers was essentially zero. Even after the quarantine measures were lifted, nearly 70 per cent of the villagers still were unable to work owing to workplace closures. Although action has been taken to mitigate the potential negative effects, these disease-control measures might have accelerated the inequality between rural and urban households in China.
Despite rising incomes and rapid economic growth, there remains a significant gender gap in health outcomes among rural children in China. This study examines whether the gender gap in child health is related to the behavior of caregivers when seeking healthcare, and whether healthcare subsidies help to bridge the gender gap in rural health outcomes.
Focusing on vision care specifically, we draw on data from a randomized controlled trial of 13,100 children in Gansu and Shaanxi provinces in China that provided subsidized eyeglasses to myopic children in one set of schools (henceforth, referred to as the treatment schools) and provided prescription information but not subsidized eyeglasses to myopic children in another set of schools (control schools).
The baseline results reveal that while female students generally have worse vision than male students, they are significantly less likely than male students to be taken by their caregivers to a vision exam. The experimental results indicate, however, that caregivers respond positively to both health information and subsidized healthcare, regardless of the gender of their children. When prescription information is paired with a subsidy voucher for healthcare (a free pair of eyeglasses), the uptake rate rises dramatically.
The gender gap in healthcare can be minimized by implementing subsidized healthcare policies.
School bullying is a widely recognized problem in developed countries, but remains under-investigated in developing countries, especially in remote rural areas. In this paper, we examine the prevalence, correlates, and consequences of bullying victimization and its relation to educational performance and creative attitudes. Using data from 10,528 students across 120 primary schools in rural China, we find an alarmingly high prevalence of bullying victimization and that several individual, family, and school characteristics are correlated with bullying victimization. Analyses indicate students who are bullied frequently score lower in Chinese, reading, and math tests and creative attitudes. Taken together, the results demonstrate a need for further research and policy interventions to reduce bullying in schools.
Background: Maternal mental health problems play an important role in infant well-being. Although western countries have extensively studied the associations between maternal mental disorders, hygiene practices and infant health, little is known in developing settings. This study investigates the correlations between postnatal mental health problems, hand washing practices and infant illness in rural western China. Methods: A total of 720 mothers of infants aged 0–6 months from four poor counties in rural western China were included in the survey. Mental health symptoms were assessed using the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21). Questions about infant illness and hand washing practices followed evaluative surveys from prior studies. Adjusted ordinary least squares regressions were used to examine correlations between postnatal mental health (depression, anxiety, and stress) symptoms, hand washing practices, and infant illness outcomes. Results: Maternal depression, anxiety and stress symptoms were significantly associated with reduced hand washing overall and less frequent hand washing after cleaning the infant's bottom. Mental health symptoms were also associated with a higher probability of infants showing two or more illness symptoms and visiting a doctor for illness symptoms. Individual hand washing practices were not significantly associated with infant illness; however, a composite measure of hand washing practices was significantly associated with reduced probability of infant illness. Conclusion: Postnatal mental health problems are prevalent in rural China and significantly associated with infant illness. Policy makers and practitioners should investigate possible interventions to improve maternal and infant well-being.
Research in developed countries has found that paternal involvement has positive and significant effects on early childhood development (ECD). Less is known, however, about the state of paternal involvement and its influence on ECD in rural China. Using data collected in Southern China that included 1,460 children aged 6–42 months and their fathers (as well as their primary caregivers), this study examines the association between paternal involvement and ECD. Although the results demonstrate that the average level of paternal involvement is low in rural China, paternal involvement is related to a significant increase in three domains of ECD (cognition, language, and social-emotional skills). Older children benefit significantly more than do younger children from paternal involvement in all domains of ECD. The results also show that, if the mother is the primary caregiver, the mother’s higher educational level and the family’s higher socioeconomic status are positively associated with paternal involvement.
We present the results of a cluster-randomized controlled trial that evaluates the effects of a free, center-based parenting intervention on early cognitive development and parenting practices in 100 rural villages in China. We then compare these effects to a previous trial of a home-based intervention conducted in the same region, using the same parenting curriculum and public service system, accounting for potential differences between the studies. We find that the center-based intervention did not have a significant impact on child development outcomes, but did lead to increases in the material investments, time investments, and parenting skills of caregivers. The average impact of the center-based intervention on child skills and investments in children was significantly smaller than the home-visiting intervention. Analysis of the possible mechanisms suggests that the difference in effects was driven primarily by different patterns of selection into program participation.
Introduction: Inadequate care during early childhood can lead to long-term deficits in skills. Parenting programmes that encourage investment in young children are a promising tool for improving early development outcomes and long-term opportunities in low-income and middle-income regions, such as rural China.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review and a meta-analysis to investigate the prevalence of early developmental delays and stimulating parenting practices as well as the effect of parental training programmes on child development outcomes in rural China. We obtained data in English from EconPapers, PubMed, PsycARTICLES, Cochrane Library, Web of Science and Scopus (Elsevier) and in Chinese from China National Knowledge Infrastructure, Wanfang Data and VIP Information. We conducted frequentist meta-analyses of aggregate data and estimated random-effects meta-regressions. Certainty of evidence was rated according to the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation approach.
Results: We identified 19 observational studies on the prevalence of developmental delays and stimulating parenting practices for children under 5 years of age (n=19 762) and ten studies on the impact of parental training programmes on early child development (n=13 766). Children’s risk of cognitive, language and social-emotional delays in the rural study sites (covering 14 provinces mostly in Central and Western China) was 45%, 46%, and 36%, respectively. Parental training programmes had a positive impact on child cognition, language and social-emotional development.
Conclusion: There is evidence to suggest that early developmental delay and the absence of stimulating parenting practices (ie, reading, storytelling and singing with children) may be prevalent across rural, low-income and middle-income regions in Central and Western China. Results support the effectiveness of parental training programmes to improve early development by encouraging parental engagement.
Background: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a widely recognized mental health problem in developed countries but remains under-investigated in developing settings. This study examines the prevalence, correlates, and consequences of ADHD symptoms among elementary school students in rural China.
Methods: Cross-sectional data were collected from 6,719 students across 120 rural primary schools in China on ADHD symptoms, demographic characteristics, and academic performance in reading and math. ADHD symptoms were evaluated using the caregiver-reported ADHD Rating Scale-IV.
Results: The prevalence of ADHD symptoms was 7.5% in our sample. Male students, students in lower grade levels, and students with lower cognitive ability showed a significantly higher prevalence of ADHD symptoms (ORs = 2.56, 2.06, and 1.84, respectively; p<0.05). Left-behind children showed a significantly lower prevalence of ADHD symptoms than did children who were living with their parents (OR = 0.74, p < 0.05). Adjusted regressions show that students with ADHD symptoms scored 0.12 standardized deviations lower in reading (p < 0.05) and 0.19 standardized deviations lower in math (p < 0.01).
Limitations: The ADHD Rating Scale-IV is a screening scale rather than a diagnostic test. Caregiver self-report measures also may underestimate ADHD symptoms for our sample.
Conclusions: ADHD is a common disorder among rural students in China and appears to be contributing to poor academic outcomes. The higher prevalence of ADHD among students with low cognitive ability also suggests that many rural children in China face multifactorial learning challenges. Taken together, the findings indicate a need for educators and policymakers in rural China to develop programs to reduce risk and support students with ADHD symptoms.
This study examines the effects of local and nationwide COVID‐19 disease control measures on the health and economy of China's rural population. We conducted phone surveys with 726 randomly selected village informants across seven rural Chinese provinces in February 2020. Four villages (0.55%) reported infections, and none reported deaths. Disease control measures had been universally implemented in all sample villages. About 74% of informants reported that villagers with wage‐earning jobs outside the village had stopped working due to workplace closures. A higher percentage of rural individuals could not work due to transportation, housing, and other constraints. Local governments had taken measures to reduce the impact of COVID‐19. Although schools in all surveyed villages were closed, 71% of village informants reported that students were attending classes online. Overall, measures to control COVID‐19 appear to have been successful in limiting disease transmission in rural communities outside the main epidemic area. Rural Chinese citizens, however, have experienced significant economic consequences from the disease control measures.
Cognitive development after age three tends to be stable and can therefore predict cognitive skills in later childhood. However, there is evidence that cognitive development is less stable before age three. In rural China, research has found large shares of children under age three are developmentally delayed, yet little is known about the trajectories of cognitive development between 0 and 3 years of age or how developmental trajectories predict later cognitive skills. This study seeks to describe the trajectories of child cognitive development between the ages of 0–3 years and examine how different trajectories predict cognitive development at preschool age.
We collected three waves of longitudinal panel data from 1245 children in rural Western China. Child cognitive development was measured by the Bayley Scales of Infant Development when the child was 6–12 months and 22–30 months, and by the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-Fourth Edition when the child was 49–65 months. We used the two measures of cognitive development before age three to determine the trajectories of child cognitive development.
Of the children, 39% were never cognitively delayed; 13% were persistently delayed; 7% experienced improving cognitive development; and 41% experienced deteriorating development before age 3. Compared to children who had never experienced cognitive delay, children with persistent cognitive delay and those with deteriorating development before age 3 had significantly lower cognitive scores at preschool age. Children with improving development before age 3 showed similar levels of cognition at preschool age as children who had never experienced cognitive delay.
Large shares of children under age 3 in rural Western China show deteriorating cognitive development from infancy to toddlerhood, which predict lower levels of cognition at preschool age. Policymakers should invest in improving cognitive development before age 3 to prevent long-term poor cognition among China’s rural children.
The home language environment is critical to early language development and subsequent skills. However, few studies have quantitatively measured the home language environment in low-income, developing settings. This study explores variations in the home language environment and child language skills among households in poor rural villages in northwestern China. Audio recordings were collected for 38 children aged 20–28 months and analyzed using Language Environment Analysis (LENA) software; language skills were measured using the MacArthur–Bates Mandarin Communicative Developmental Inventories expressive vocabulary scale. The results revealed large variability in both child language skills and home language environment measures (adult words, conversational turns, and child vocalizations) with 5- to 6-fold differences between the highest and lowest scores. Despite variation, however, the average number of adult words and conversational turns were lower than found among urban Chinese children. Correlation analyses did not identify significant correlations between demographic characteristics and the home language environment. However, the results do indicate significant correlations between the home language environment and child language skills, with conversational turns showing the strongest correlation. The results point to a need for further research on language engagement and ways to increase parent–child interactions to improve early language development among young children in rural China.
Background: Maternal health during pregnancy is a key input in fetal health and child development. This study
aims to systematically describe the health behaviors of pregnant women in rural China and identify which
subgroups of women are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors during pregnancy.
In late January 2020, China’s government initiated its first aggressive measures to combat COVID-19 by forbidding individuals from leaving their homes, radically limiting public transportation, cancelling or postponing large public events, and closing schools across the country. The rollout of these measures coincided with China’s Lunar New Year holiday, during which more than 280 million people had returned from their places of work to their home villages in rural areas. The disease control policies remained in place until late February and early March, when they were gradually loosened to
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak in December 2019, China implemented a nationwide travel blockade and quarantine policy that required all public spaces, businesses, and schools to shut their doors until further notice and placed restrictions on individuals leaving their homes or traveling. The lockdown was also implemented across China’s vast rural areas, home to more than 700 million people. These quarantine measures started during the annual Spring Festival in mid-January, when most rural residents had returned to their family homes to celebrate the Lunar New Year together.
In China, low levels of early childhood development (ECD) in rural areas may inhibit economic development as the nation attempts to transition from a middle-income manufacturing-based economy to a high-income innovation economy. This paper surveys the recent literature on ECD among children ages 0-3 years in rural China, including rates of developmental delays, causes of delays, and implications for the future of China’s economy. Recent studies have found high rates of developmental delays among young children in rural China and point to poor nutrition and psychosocial stimulation as the primary causes. This review highlights the need for large-scale ECD interventions in rural China to raise human capital and support future economic growth.
Anemia is a serious nutritional deficiency among infants and toddlers in rural China. However, it is unclear how the anemia status changes among China’s rural children as they age. This study investigates the prevalence of anemia as children grow from infancy to preschool-age, as well as the dynamic anemia status of children over time. We conducted longitudinal surveys of 1170 children in the Qinba Mountain Area of China in 2013, 2015 and 2017. The results show that 51% of children were anemic in infancy (6–12 months), 24% in toddlerhood (22–30 months) and 19% at preschool-age (49–65 months). An even larger share of children (67%) suered from anemia at some point over the course of study. The data also show that although only 4% of children were persistently anemic from infancy to preschool-age, 8% of children saw their anemia status deteriorate. We further found that children may be at greater risk for developing anemia, or for having persistent anemia, during the period between toddlerhood and preschool-age. Combined with the finding that children with improving anemia status showed higher cognition than persistently anemic children, there is an urgent need for eective nutritional interventions to combat anemia as children grow, especially between toddlerhood and preschool age.