Universities in China have been urged to improve their student support services, as a new study estimates that almost two-thirds of students in the country experienced maltreatment as a child.
An analysis of 32 studies estimates that 65 per cent of university students in China were maltreated during childhood, with emotional neglect (60 per cent) and physical neglect (55 per cent) the most prevalent forms.
More than a third of students (37 per cent) were victims of emotional abuse, the study estimates, while almost a fifth (17 per cent) were physically abused. Sixteen per cent were victims of sexual abuse.
Researchers at Central South University in Changsha and the Shenzhen Center for Chronic Disease Control conclude that “childhood maltreatment is a widespread and serious problem among Chinese college students” and call for educators to “pay more attention to maltreated college students and use effective interventions and therapeutic strategies to help these students better adapt to the environment and society”.
Their study, published in Plos One, was based on the pooled findings from 32 studies – all of which were cross-sectional, included participants enrolled in a Chinese college or university, and reported maltreatment prior to 18 years old. The studies were published between 2006 and 2017.
Ye Liu, lecturer in international development at King’s College London, said that the findings show that “universities should up their game in terms of providing adequate student welfare support”.
She added that while personal tutors in China are “assigned with pastoral care responsibilities in both public and private universities”, most are “not professionally trained to deal with mental or psychological issues”.
“Universities perhaps should take students’ emotional well-being more seriously by teaming up professionals with tutors or providing training for personal tutors,” she said.
However, there is also a question mark over how likely Chinese students are to seek help for emotional problems, Dr Liu said, citing figures from a 2011 study which found that 92 per cent of Chinese citizens with mental illnesses did not seek professional medical help.