Long-term impacts of parental migration on Chinese children’s psychosocial well-being: Mitigating and exacerbating factors.


Purpose: Prolonged separation from migrant parents raises concerns for the well-being of 60 million left behind children (LBC) in rural China. This study aimed to investigate the impact of current and previous parental migration on child psychosocial well-being, with a focus on emotional and behavioral outcomes, while considering factors in family care and support. Methods: Children were recruited from schools in migrant-sending rural areas in Zhejiang and Guizhou provinces by random stratified sampling. A self-administered questionnaire measured children’s psychosocial well-being, demographics, household characteristics, and social support. Multiple linear regression models examined the effects of parental migration and other factors on psychosocial difficulties. Results: Data from 1930 current, 907 previous, and 701 never LBC were included (mean age 12.4, SD 2.1). Adjusted models showed both previous and current parental migration was associated with significantly higher overall psychosocial difficulties, involving aspects of emotion, conduct, peer relationships, hyperactivity, and pro-social behaviors. Parental divorce and lack of available support demonstrated a strong association with greater total difficulties. While children in Guizhou had much worse psychosocial outcomes than those in Zhejiang, adjusted subgroup analysis showed similar magnitude of between-province disparities regardless of parental migration status. However, having divorced parents and lack of support were greater psychosocial risk factors for current and previous-LBC than for never LBC. Conclusions: Parental migration has an independent, long-lasting adverse effect on children. Psychosocial well-being of LBC depends more on the relationship bonds between nuclear family members and the availability of support, rather than socioeconomic status.