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Parent-Child Discrepancy in Educational Aspirations and Depressive Symptoms in Early Adolescence: A Longitudinal Study

Abstract

Adolescents may have educational aspirations that are different from their parents’ educational aspirations for them, and such discrepancy may affect adolescents’ psychological adjustment. This longitudinal study examined how parent-child discrepancy in educational aspirations relate to depressive symptoms in early adolescents, both concurrently and prospectively, when controlling for parents’ depressive symptoms. Moreover, parent and child gender differences in the effects were explored. Data were collected from 3799 students (52.0% boys; Mage = 10.78) and their fathers and mothers when the students were in fifth and seventh grade over 2 years. Polynomial regression with response surface analysis was used to analyze the effects of parent-child aspiration discrepancy on depressive symptoms separately in four parent-child gender dyads. Cross-sectional results demonstrated that for all parent-child gender dyads, congruently higher aspirations were related to lower depressive symptoms, and greater incongruence in aspirations was related to higher depressive symptoms. Moreover, for parent-son dyads, adolescents whose aspirations were lower than those of their parents reported higher depressive symptoms than adolescents whose aspirations were higher than those of their parents. However, longitudinal results further showed that, for father-son dyads only, congruently higher aspirations were related to increased depressive symptoms over time, while for parent-daughter dyads only, greater incongruence in aspirations was related to increased depressive symptoms over time. The findings support the importance of considering parent-child discrepancy when exploring the role of educational aspirations in adolescents’ psychological adjustment and call for a more detailed and rigorous analysis and interpretation of this relationship.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

X.G. conceived of the study, participated in its design, performed the statistical analysis, and drafted the manuscript; H.Q. supported the data collection and analysis and helped to draft the manuscript; K.J. supported the data collection and analysis and helped to draft the manuscript; L.L. conceived of the study, participated in its design, drafted the manuscript, and supervised the study. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Funding

The study is supported by the Major Project of National Social Science Fund of China (16ZDA229).

Data Sharing and Declaration

The datasets generated and analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Liang Luo.

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Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in the present study were in accordance with the recommendations of the Research Ethics Committee of the Beijing Normal University and with the Declaration of Helsinki.

Informed Consent

Written informed consent was obtained from the involved schools and parents of the participated students.

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Guo, X., Qin, H., Jiang, K. et al. Parent-Child Discrepancy in Educational Aspirations and Depressive Symptoms in Early Adolescence: A Longitudinal Study. J Youth Adolescence 51, 1983–1996 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-022-01644-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-022-01644-y

Keywords:

  • Educational aspirations
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Discrepancy
  • Gender difference
  • Response surface analysis