The Unique Role of Peer Support: Exploring the Effects of Various Sources of Social Support on the Mental Health of Unaccompanied Children in China under Residential Education

Lizhang Dong, Yanan Peng, Ran Zhang, Kang Ju, Juzhe Xi


This study investigates the impact of various sources of social support on the mental health of unaccompanied children under residential education in China. Unaccompanied children refer to those whose parents are still alive but unable to raise them due to various reasons. The study utilized self-reported questionnaires administered at two time waves, with the first wave (T1) evaluating family support, teacher support, and peer support, and the second wave (T2) evaluating depression, subjective well-being, and resilience.

A total of 202 participants completed both surveys. To examine the predictive effect of different sources of social support on the mental health of these children, the study used the structural equation model with depression and subjective well-being as indicators. The results show that neither family support nor teacher support (T1) had a significant effect on the mental health (T2) of the children. However, peer support (T1) had a significant positive predictive effect on mental health (T2), indicating the unique role of peer support in promoting the mental health of unaccompanied children.

The study also explored the mediating role of resilience between social support and well-being, revealing that though the direct effect of teacher support (T1) on mental health (T2) was not significant, the indirect mediating effect of resilience on the relationship between teacher support and mental health was significant. Both the direct and indirect effect of family support (T1) on mental health (T2) were not significant. These findings highlight the importance of creating a positive peer environment for unaccompanied children to promote their mental health.

This study has important practical implications for the development of effective intervention programs aimed at improving the mental health of this population.