Left-behind and/or Migrant Statuses, Social Capital, and the Mental Health of Children in Rural China

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 2:30 PM
Room: F205
Oral Presentation
Qiaobing WU , The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Children migrating to the urban cities with their parents and children left behind in the rural counties by their migrant parents are two vulnerable populations accompanying the rural-urban migration in mainland China. Some of these children even have dual experiences of being migrant and left-behind at various occasions due to their parents’ return migration as a consequence of the economic downturn or other family decisions. Despite a growing body of literature on the mental health of either migrant children or left-behind children, no previous study had ever tried to distinguish the various experiences of being migrant or left-behind, or both, that might contribute to children’s well-being. This study was aimed to investigate how the left-behind experiences of children living in the rural context of China influenced their mental health status, with their potential migration experiences being taken into account. Moreover, it investigated how the effects of left-behind experiences on mental health might be mediated by the stock of social capital in their family and neighborhood.

Data of this study came from a questionnaire survey with 701 children ages 11-18 living in the rural counties of Guizhou province, China. The structural equation modeling results suggested that, compared to those rural children who lived with both parents and never had any experience of being migrant or left-behind, children who were currently left-behind and had some previous experience of being a migrant appeared to exhibit higher levels of depression. Children who used to be left-behind but lived with both parents at the time of study tended to experience less depressive symptoms, demonstrated both as the direct effect of their unique left-behind experiences and through the mediating effect of social capital in the family. Implications of these research findings were further discussed.