Migration and Children's Psychosocial Development in China: When and Why Migration Matters

Lu, Yao; Yeung, Jean Wei-Jun; Liu, Jingming; Treiman, Donald J.

Migration has affected a large number of children in many settings. Despite growing attention to these children, important gaps remain in our understanding of their psychosocial development, as well as the factors that mediate and moderate the impact of migration on children. The present study examines the influences of migration on children’s psychosocial well-being in China using a new nationally representative survey. We compared different groups of children age 3-15, including migrant children, left-behind children, and rural and urban children in nonmigrant families. Results show that rural children left behind by both parents were significantly worse off in psychological and behavioral well-being than rural nonmigrant children. By contrast, rural children left behind by one parent and migrant children were no worse off. The disadvantage of left-behind children was mediated by their caregivers' emotional well-being and parenting practices. Frequent contact with migrant parents, but not receipt of remittances, helped ameliorate the vulnerability of left-behind children. These results add to our understanding of how migration affects child development in general.

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December 6, 2019