Studies concerning left-behind children in rural China have shown that parental absence due to migration is associated with greater risk of child victimization and accidental injuries, and a range of psychosocial problems. The authors conducted this meta-analysis to determine the extent to which left-behind children are affected by parental migration, as compared to children in nonmigrant rural families. A comprehensive literature search was conducted, and 90 studies published before 2017 were included in the data synthesis and analysis. The results revealed that compared to non-left-behind children, rural left-behind children are generally more disadvantaged in regard to child safety (d = 0.27) and psychological adjustment (d = 0.25). The effect sizes, though interpreted as small, revealed that children in rural China are significantly affected by parental migration. Children’s educational stage was a significant variable that moderated the effect sizes of child safety and psychological adjustment. The findings of the meta-analysis indicated that mother-only migration may have the most harmful effect on children. In terms of implications for interventions, the results suggest more attention should be given to rural left-behind children and to “mother-absent children” in particular. Future research is warranted to explore the association between left-behind children’s psychological adjustment and their exposure to injury and victimization.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health(social science)
- Applied Psychology
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health