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Parental care and depressive symptoms among Chinese medical students: roles of empathy and gender

BMC Med Educ. 2022 Jun 11;22(1):451. doi: 10.1186/s12909-022-03524-2.


BACKGROUND: Medical students in China who face the dual pressure of study and employment tend to experience subclinical depressive symptoms. Parental care plays an important direct and indirect role in the psychological development of medical students, and the extent and mechanism of this role urgently need to be studied and discussed.

METHODS: After simple random sampling and screening of valid questionnaires, data from a total of 924 people were used. The participants completed the parental bonding instrument, self-rating depression scale, Chinese version of the Jefferson empathy scale-medical student edition and self-rating anxiety scale to evaluate parental care, empathy, depressive symptoms and anxiety. The data were statistically processed using a descriptive analysis, correlation analysis and test of moderated mediation.

RESULTS: Maternal care had a significant negative predictive effect on depressive symptoms among medical students. Strong maternal care can reduce the occurrence of depressive symptoms in medical students. Empathy played a positive mediating role such that both types of empathy could alleviate the effect of weak maternal care on the depressive symptoms of medical students. However, neither cognitive empathy nor affective empathy played a mediating role in the relationship between paternal care and depressive symptoms. Nevertheless, the relationship between maternal care and empathy was moderated by the medical students’ gender.

CONCLUSIONS: The effect of this relationship on female medical students deserves special attention. The results of this study provide a reference and basis for the adjustment of medical education. This study could also help in the design of effective psychological intervention measures to reduce the degree of depressive symptoms and enhance personal empathy.

PMID:35689260 | DOI:10.1186/s12909-022-03524-2

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