Family Structure, Family Instability, and Child Psychological Well-being in the Context of Migration: Evidence from Sequence Analysis in China

Lu, Yao; Zhang, Ruochen; Du, Haifeng

This study conceptualizes parental migration as a dynamic family process that exposes children to parental absence and family instability. Using detailed migration histories, this study identifies the left-behind trajectories of rural Chinese children throughout childhood (age 1-12) and examines the impact on psychological well-being (N=3,961). Results indicate heterogeneity in children’s experience of parental migration, which is characterized by both persistence (prolonged parental absence) and instability (repeated parental migration). A quarter of rural children experienced prolonged parental migration, and for half of these, by both parents. Another 50% of rural children experienced repeated parental migration. Children continuously left behind by both parents and children who experienced substantial family instability both fared worse in psychological development than those in stable two-parent families.

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Child Development

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August 29, 2022