Is Mobile Parenting Possible? a Qualitative Study on the Parenting Experiences of Chinese Rural-to-Urban Migrant Mothers of Left-behind Children

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 16:45
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Siu-ming TO, Department of Social Work, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
In China, there were approximately 61 million left-behind children in 2012. While the psychosocial maladjustment and developmental problems encountered by left-behind children have been the focus of numerous studies in recent years, few of them addressed the parental concerns and practices of migrant parents. To fill part of the knowledge gap, this qualitative study aimed to investigate Chinese migrant mothers’ parenting needs and their experiences in using Information and Communication Technologies (such as phone calls, WeChat, and Weibo) to perform their roles and connect with their children. A conceptual framework was developed to guide a process of examining their parenting experiences in terms of self-perceptions, knowledge, styles, and parent-child interactions. Twenty migrant mothers of children aged 11 or below were purposively selected as respondents. All of them worked in toy factories in Guangzhou. They had at least one child living in the hometown. Individual interviews were used to collect the narratives of these mothers. Their narratives indicated that although they faced intense challenges in parenting, they did not abandon their parenting roles upon migration. They were concerned about how they could enhance their parental involvement, maintain strong ties with their children, exert control over them, collaborate with caregivers and establish support networks for child nurturing through ICTs. Nevertheless, advancements in communication technology, the content of dialogues, and irregular communications may limit how children and parents perceive each other’s life. Academically, the study’s comprehensive analysis of their narratives can contribute to generating theory about migrant mothers’ use of ICTs to construct the meaning of parenthood and carry out parenting practices while separated from their children. Practically, the findings can assist practitioners with designing a parent support and education program that can equip migrant mothers with the knowledge and skills in using ICTs to foster child development and enhance parent-child relationships creatively.