Parental Migration, Children’s Safety and Psychological Adjustment in Rural China: A Meta-Analysis

Mengtong Chen, Xiaoyue Sun, Qiqi Chen, Ko Ling Chan

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9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-122
Number of pages10
JournalTrauma, Violence, and Abuse
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jan 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Mengtong Chen , PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China. Her research aims to better understand the well-being of children affected by migration, with a particular focus on the impacts of family structure and parenting practices. Xiaoyue Sun , PhD, is currently a visiting scholar at East Asian Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Her research focuses on the quality of life of migrant children in urban China. Qiqi Chen , is a PhD candidate in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China. Her research interests include family victimization, child maltreatment, and psychological maltreatment in intimate relationships. Ko Ling Chan , PhD, is a professor in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China. His research interests include family polyvictimization, partner violence, child abuse and neglect, disadvantaged children with poverty and disability, and internal migration in the Chinese mainland. 1 Department of Applied Social Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong SAR, China 2 East Asian Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA Ko Ling Chan, Department of Applied Social Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong SAR, China. Email: koling.chan@polyu.edu.hk 1 2020 21 1 113 122 © The Author(s) 2017 2017 SAGE Publications 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. left-behind children migration psychological adjustment safety meta-analysis Declaration of Conflicting Interests The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Funding The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The work described in this article was fully supported by a grant from the Central Policy Unit of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China [HKU 7001-SPPR-12]. Supplemental Material Supplemental material for this article is available online.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2017.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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