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Open Access Research article

A survey in rural China of parent-absence through migrant working: the impact on their children's self-concept and loneliness

Li-Juan Liu1, Xun Sun2, Chun-Li Zhang3, Yue Wang1 and Qiang Guo3*

Author Affiliations

1 Office of Medical Education, Training Department, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, PR China

2 Changzheng Hospital, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, PR China

3 Training Department, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, PR China

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:32  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-32

Published: 23 January 2010

Abstract

Background

Following the rapid increase of migrant workers in China, the number of "absent migrant parents" children is also rising fast. The "absent migrant parents" children might have an insecure relationship with their parents, have a different view of them, and be prone to have the feeling of loneliness. The purpose of the study was to compare the self-concept and loneliness between the "absent migrant parents" children and comparison children, to examine the relationship between self-concept and loneliness among the two groups, and to study the predictors of self-concept among the two groups.

Methods

Participants were 230 "absent migrant parents" children and 250 comparison children in the rural area of a county, China. The self-concept and loneliness of children were assessed using Piers-Harris Self-Concept Scale and Childhood Loneliness Scale.

Results

The "absent migrant parents" children were more likely to dislike their parents or be uncertain whether they like their parents, and they reported less time spent in physical and leisure time activities, higher loneliness and lower self-concept in comparison with the comparison children. Loneliness was significantly negatively correlated with all the dimensions of self-concept among the two groups. Regression analysis showed that self-concept was positively related to the relationship with parents and guardians and time spent in physical and leisure activities among the "absent migrant parents" children. The same factors (except the relationship with guardians) were found for self-concept among the comparison children.

Conclusions

The "absent migrant parents" children were more inclined to have lower self-concept and higher loneliness. The lower self-concept seemed to contribute to the higher loneliness of the "absent migrant parents" children. The lower self-concept of the "absent migrant parents" children was mainly related with their relationship with parents and guardians. The acceptance and support from their parents could not be fully replaced by that from their guardians.