Parental Migration, Children’s Safety and Psychological Adjustment in Rural China: A Meta-Analysis

Mengtong Chen, Xiaoyue Sun, Qiqi Chen, Ko Ling Chan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Studies concerning left-behind children in rural China have shown that parental absence due to migration is associated with greater risk of child victimization and accidental injuries, and a range of psychosocial problems. The authors conducted this meta-analysis to determine the extent to which left-behind children are affected by parental migration, as compared to children in nonmigrant rural families. A comprehensive literature search was conducted, and 90 studies published before 2017 were included in the data synthesis and analysis. The results revealed that compared to non-left-behind children, rural left-behind children are generally more disadvantaged in regard to child safety (d = 0.27) and psychological adjustment (d = 0.25). The effect sizes, though interpreted as small, revealed that children in rural China are significantly affected by parental migration. Children’s educational stage was a significant variable that moderated the effect sizes of child safety and psychological adjustment. The findings of the meta-analysis indicated that mother-only migration may have the most harmful effect on children. In terms of implications for interventions, the results suggest more attention should be given to rural left-behind children and to “mother-absent children” in particular. Future research is warranted to explore the association between left-behind children’s psychological adjustment and their exposure to injury and victimization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-122
Number of pages10
JournalTrauma, Violence, and Abuse
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • left-behind children
  • meta-analysis
  • migration
  • psychological adjustment
  • safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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