|dc.description.abstract||This study explores the longitudinal changes among a sample of early
adolescent girls in China throughout their transition from primary to junior
high school. Early adolescence is a time of multiple transitions and is
associated with a range of mental health outcomes in Western literature. This
study will be the first to examine developmental changes in early adolescence
among Chinese girls.
A sample of 425 Chinese girls completed a self‐report questionnaire at three
time points: the end of primary school, the start of the first year of junior high,
and the end of the first year of junior high. The questionnaire comprised a
range of measures relating to bodily changes, puberty, and gender issues,
social changes in family, peers and school, and a series of standardised
measures of mental health including: life satisfaction, self‐esteem,
psychosomatic symptoms, loneliness, anxiety, depression, and coping.
Results were analysed using ANOVA to examine longitudinal changes in
measures. Following an overview of the interrelations between all the
variables in this study using One‐way ANOVA, longitudinal results were
reported in three chapters: physical changes, social changes, and mental health.
Findings relating to physical growth highlighted the co‐occurrence of pubertal
development and school transition. Significant increases in body
dissatisfaction and social comparisons of physical appearance were identified,
indicating girls’ growing self‐consciousness about their physical changes.
Specifically, apart from weight concerns, an interesting finding of this study
was that girls in this study reported consistently higher and significantly
growing concerns about their height stature. A significant decline in positive
feelings of gender typing was also identified.
In terms of social development, there were no longitudinal changes in the
overall quality of attachment with parents or peers, as well as peer norms,
suggesting that although variance exists across individuals, these constructs
remained longitudinally stable in this sample. On the other hand, a significant
decline was found in parental involvement. In contrast to the negative
outcomes reported widely in Western literature following the primary to
middle school transition, this study revealed an overall positive school
transition experience. To be specific, overall school climate was reported to be
more positive in junior high school, girls’ personal goals and school
behaviours were improved longitudinally, and school transition problems
were significantly smaller than expected prior to the transition.
Analysis of developmental changes in mental health revealed no changes in
global life satisfaction and depression. However, self‐esteem in general
significantly reduced over time; simultaneously and interestingly,
psychosomatic health, loneliness, and overall anxiety significantly improved
after the transition. Furthermore, longitudinally girls adopted a wider range
of coping strategies to deal with stressful events, although both the selection
and efficacy evaluation varied across coping strategies among individuals.
This study is the first to explore Chinese girls’ development during early
adolescence. Developmental trends are established in Chinese adolescent girls’
physical, social, and psychological domains. Despite evidence consistent with
the universalities of this life stage as established in Western literature, this
study also highlights cultural differences in the developmental experiences of
Chinese adolescents. Taken together, the findings reveal a positive
developmental phase with little evidence of increases in adaptation difficulties
or mental health outcomes. These empirical findings are in contrast to Western
research, which often highlights early adolescence as a time of adaptation
difficulties. Overall, this study contributes to the literature on adolescent
development. The role of culture and implications for future research and
practice are also discussed.||en