Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Establishing Chinese Middle-School Students' Mental-Health Norms with the Symptom Check List-90-R

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Establishing Chinese Middle-School Students' Mental-Health Norms with the Symptom Check List-90-R

Article excerpt

The Symptom Checklist-90-R (SCL-90-R; Derogatis, 1992) is a widely applied self-assessment instrument that is commonly used to measure clinical psychiatric symptoms and mental-health status (Schmitz et al., 2000). It has been found to provide good discrimination between healthy individuals and people with mental illnesses (Hardt, Gerbershagen, & Franke, 2000). The SCL-90-R was first used in China to study psychiatric symptoms in 1984 and was applied in the assessment of norms for the mental-health status of healthy individuals in 1986 (Jin, Wu, & Zhang, 1986). In the 30 years since then, there have been numerous studies conducted with nonclinical populations in China, including university students, high-school students, soldiers, teachers, and medical personnel. In studies assessing the mental health of Chinese middle-school students, 60% of researchers have used the SCL-90-R as the measure (Shi & Lei, 2007).

However, no SCL-90-R norms specifically for middle-school students have been established. Therefore, based on their own knowledge or experience, researchers have set different norms as a reference to evaluate the mental health of their study participants. Given that, although they all adopted the same instrument (the SCL-90-R), various norms have been applied as references in these studies, inconsistent conclusions have been reached.

In a considerable number of studies the researchers have claimed that the mental health of Chinese middle-school students is poor, and it has been reported that there are increasing psychological problems (Fan & Zhang, 2005). For example, Ye, Lan, Hu, Chen, and Yan (2016), conducted a study with students at a senior high school in Jingning County. After comparing the results with the norms for middle-school students reported by Liu and Zhang (2004), the researchers concluded that 65.08% of the senior high school students had mild psychological problems, and 19.55% of them had medium level or more severe psychological problems. Zhao (2014) conducted an investigation of the mental health of students at a community junior high school in Shanghai, using as a reference the national norm for the Chinese population aged between 18 and 60 years, taken from the study by Jin et al. (1986), and concluded that the mental health of the junior high school students tested was poor (p < .01) in comparison to the 1986 norm. Jiang et al. (2014) tested the mental-health status of 4,237 senior high school students with the SCL-90-R, using a definition of having symptoms of neurosis or mental illness if the sum of the ratings of 90 symptoms for a student was equal to, or greater than, 160. They found that the mental health of the students tested was not ideal, with a prevalence of depressive, anxiety, and psychoticism symptoms of 52.56%, 26.95%, and 8.95% respectively, and having psychological problems was a common phenomenon.

However, there are also a number of studies in which the results show that although certain psychological problems are present among Chinese middle-school students, the overall situation is quite good as most of the scores of SCL-90-R subscales were significantly lower than the chosen norms (Shi & Lei, 2007). Han (2013) carried out a survey among 1,179 middle-school students living in a suburban area of the Pudong New District, Shanghai. The results showed that the mean of each factor tested was significantly lower than that of a norm for middle-school students (Liu & Zhang, 2004) and that of comprehensive samples of middle-school students (Tang, Cheng, Yuan, & Deng, 1999), so Han concluded that the overall mental health of the middle-school students in this suburban area was quite good. Li and Zhang (2009) recruited 1,090 middle-school students living in the rural region of five northwestern provinces (regions) of China as research participants, and adopted the national norm as a reference. Their results showed no significant difference between norms for these rural middle-school students and those for young adults (Jin et al. …

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