Vulnerability and Resilience in the Wake of COVID-19: Family Resources and Children’s Well-being in China

Zhang, Ruochen; Lu, Yao; Du, Haifeng

The present study uses data from a 2020 survey conducted in Shaanxi Province during the COVID-19 outbreak to examine the family resources and psychological well-being of four major groups of Chinese children (urban, migrant, rural nonmigrant, and rural left-behind children). The results highlight the complex ways in which family resources intersect with the pandemic to affect these different groups of children. Family economic resources have generally declined across all groups, but left-behind children have suffered the most severe economic shock. However, parent-child relationships for all children have improved across the board during the pandemic. Diminished economic resources act as a risk factor, while improved family relationships play a protective role in children’s psychological well-being. Parent-child relationships have had a more pronounced positive impact on psychological outcomes for migrant and left-behind children, who are the most deprived of parental input under normal circumstances, than for other groups of children. Because of these processes, migrant children and left-behind children fare similarly to urban children in terms of their resilience to the COVID-19 crisis. Among children enjoying especially favorable parent-child relationships, migrant children and left-behind children even appear to have higher psychological well-being than urban children during the pandemic. In comparison to this social impact, the impact of family economic resources is more moderate in magnitude and does not vary systematically across different groups of children. As a result, the positive impact of improved parent-child relationships largely outweighs the adverse effect of reduced family economic resources. Overall, the findings provide new insight into the relationship among disasters, family resources, and child well-being in the context of the COVID-19 crisis in China.

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Chinese Sociological Review

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August 29, 2022