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21-09-2019 | Original Paper

Direct and Interactive Effects of Peer Attachment and Grit on Mitigating Problem Behaviors Among Urban Left-Behind Adolescents

Journal of Child and Family Studies
Xiaoyu Lan, Rendy Radin
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10826-019-01580-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
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With the rise of internal migration in China, research has shown parental migration is linked to adolescent psychological adjustment, but little is known about the corresponding adjustment among left-behind adolescents in urban areas. More importantly, the protective factors for their adjustment are still sparsely covered in the literature. Guided by a risk and resilience ecological framework, the current study compares internalizing problem behavior (IPB) and externalizing problem behavior (EPB) between urban left-behind adolescents and their non-left-behind counterparts in mainland China. It also examines whether the direct and interactive effects of peer attachment and two facets of grit—perseverance of effort (PE) and consistency of interests (CI)—can mitigate problem behaviors in urban left-behind adolescents.


A propensity score matching analysis was used to balance the two groups concerning age, gender, socioeconomic status, and family functioning. Finally, 246 left-behind adolescents (53.6% girls) and 492 non-left-behind counterparts (55.1% girls) aged 13–18 years were involved in this study.


Urban left-behind adolescents perceived higher levels of IPB and EPB compared to non-left-behind peers. Moreover, higher levels of PE buffered the association between peer attachment and IPB, whereas lower levels of PE exacerbated the association between peer attachment and EPB for urban left-behind adolescents only. Additionally, higher levels of CI buffered the association between peer attachment and EPB for both groups.


This study concludes that peer attachment and PE have protective roles in mitigating problem behaviors among urban left-behind adolescents.

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