‘Left behind’ but not left alone: Parental migration & the psychosocial health of children in Moldova.


In Moldova, large-scale and rapidly feminised migration flows have inspired a wave of qualitative reports on children ‘left behind’. Despite this recent interest, few studies have empirically evaluated the effects of parental migration on the psychosocial health of such children. Using data collected from a nationally-representative household survey conducted in Moldova between September 2011 and February 2012, this paper analyses the psychosocial health outcomes of children of migrant parents by comparing them with children without migrant parents (n = 1979). Child psychosocial health is measured through caregiver-reported Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) scores. Multivariate regression analyses show that parental migration seldom corresponds to worse emotional symptoms outcomes but does correspond to increased conduct problems. Separate analyses for male and female children show significant gendered differences. The results partially contest the negative results that have been the subject of qualitative reports and, in particular, demonstrate that the migration of mothers infrequently results in worse psychosocial outcomes for children-contrary to what has been assumed in the discourse about parental migration in Moldova.