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Sch Psychol Q. 2018 Jun;33(2):323-335. doi: 10.1037/spq0000247.

Differences in school climate and student engagement in China and the United States.

Author information

School of Education, University of Delaware.
Graduate School of Education, University of California at Santa Barbara.
Department of Psychology, South China Normal University.
Department of Psychology, Hunan Normal University.



The purpose of this study was to examine differences between American and Chinese students in their perceptions of school climate and engagement in school, and in the relation between school climate and engagement.


Confirmatory factor analyses were used to support the factor structure and measurement invariance of the two measures administered: The Delaware School Climate Survey-Student and the Delaware Student Engagement Scale. Differences in latent means were tested, and differences in relations between variables were examined using multilevel hierarchical linear modeling. Participants consisted of 3,176 Chinese and 4,085 American students, Grades 3-5, 7-8, and 10-12.


Chinese students perceived school climate more favorably than American students, particularly beyond elementary school. Findings were more complex for student engagement. In elementary school, American students reported greater cognitive-behavioral and emotional engagement, and especially the former. In middle school and high school, Chinese students reported greater emotional engagement; however, no significant differences were found for cognitive-behavioral engagement. Most intriguing were results of multilevel hierarchical modeling that examined associations between school climate and student engagement: They were significant in American schools but not Chinese schools.


Chinese students, compared with American students, perceived the climate of their schools more favorably, especially after elementary school. However, among Chinese students, their perceptions of school climate were unrelated to their self-reported engagement in school-school climate did not seem to matter as much. (PsycINFO Database Record

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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