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Network structure of emotional and behavioral problems, loneliness, and suicidal thoughts in adolescents at the school closure and reopening stage in China

Chen, Yun; Wang, Jingyi; Lin, Haijiang; Richards, Marcus; Yang, Xiulu; Wang, Tingting; Chen, Xiaoxiao; (2023) Network structure of emotional and behavioral problems, loneliness, and suicidal thoughts in adolescents at the school closure and reopening stage in China. Translational Pediatrics , 12 (7) pp. 1373-1385. 10.21037/tp-23-33. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Public restriction and school closure policies during the pandemic may have long-term effects on adolescents' mental health, and adolescents' feelings and needs may change as the pandemic progresses. This study was conducted to explore the network structure and differences in emotional and behavioral problems (EBPs), loneliness, and suicidal thoughts in adolescents during different pandemic periods in China. METHODS: Based on two cross-sectional studies conducted in Taizhou, China, during school closure (April 16 to May 14, 2020) and reopening (May 25 to July 10, 2021) using online questionnaire, a total of 14,726 adolescents (school closure: 6,587, school reopening: 8,139) were recruited. EBPs were evaluated based on the student version of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Loneliness and suicidal thoughts were measured by item 20 and item 9 of the Chinese version of the Children's Depression Inventory (CDI), respectively. Network analysis was used to estimate the network connections and properties between EBPs, loneliness, and suicidal thoughts. RESULTS: The prevalence of psychosocial problems significantly increased at the school reopening compared with the school closure: EBPs: 36.8% vs. 31.6%; loneliness: 40.3% vs. 33.9%; suicidal thoughts: 40.8% vs. 15.4%. Suicidal thoughts showed the closest connections with being unhappy and lonely. Being bullied was strongly connected with conduct problems of lying and stealing. The links between hyperactivity symptoms and the other domains of EBPs were stronger after the school reopened. Being unhappy and showing the hyperactivity symptoms of "nonpersistent, distractible, and fidgety" presented high network and bridge (increasing transference from one symptom domain to another) centrality. Loneliness showed high expected influence and bridge centrality. CONCLUSIONS: This study highlighted the high prevalence of EBPs, loneliness, and suicidal thoughts in Chinese adolescents. It also presented the network structure of these psychological problems over different pandemic stages. It is recommended that psychological support should be provided for adolescents, especially focusing on the central and bridge symptoms highlighted in this study.

Type: Article
Title: Network structure of emotional and behavioral problems, loneliness, and suicidal thoughts in adolescents at the school closure and reopening stage in China
Location: China
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.21037/tp-23-33
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.21037/tp-23-33
Language: English
Additional information: This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0), which permits the non-commercial replication and distribution of the article with the strict proviso that no changes or edits are made and the original work is properly cited (including links to both the formal publication through the relevant DOI and the license). See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.
Keywords: Network analysis, bullying, emotional and behavioral problems (EBPs), loneliness, suicidal thoughts
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Cardiovascular Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Cardiovascular Science > Population Science and Experimental Medicine
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Cardiovascular Science > Population Science and Experimental Medicine > MRC Unit for Lifelong Hlth and Ageing
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10175421
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