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Positive youth development in rural China: The role of parental migration


  • Wen, Ming
  • Su, Shaobing
  • Li, Xiaoming
  • Lin, Danhua


This study examined how parental rural-to-urban migration may affect left-behind children's development in rural China. We used two-wave data collected on 864 rural youth age 10–17 years in the Guangxi Province, China in 2010. We tested psychometric properties of a positive youth development (PYD) model theorized and corroborated in the US, compared a range of developmental outcomes among rural youth by their parental migration status, and explored the mediating role of family economic and social resources in observed associations between developmental outcomes and parental migration. The results showed the PYD model had some international validity although modifications would be needed to make it more suitable to Chinese settings. Little difference in the PYD outcomes was detected by parental migration status. On other outcomes (i.e., self-rated health, school grades, educational aspirations, problem behavior), positive influences of parental migration were observed. Increased income but not social resources in migrant families helped explain some of these patterns. The take-home message from this study is that parental migration is not necessarily an injurious situation for youth development. To advance our knowledge about the developmental significance of parental migration for rural Chinese youth, we urgently need large-scale representative surveys to collect comprehensive and longitudinal information about rural children’s developmental trajectories and their multilevel social contexts to identify key resources of PYD in order to better help migrant and non-migrant families nurture thriving youth in rural China.

Suggested Citation

  • Wen, Ming & Su, Shaobing & Li, Xiaoming & Lin, Danhua, 2015. "Positive youth development in rural China: The role of parental migration," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 261-269.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:132:y:2015:i:c:p:261-269
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.07.051

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andrew Halpern-Manners, 2011. "The Effect of Family Member Migration on Education and Work Among Nonmigrant Youth in Mexico," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 48(1), pages 73-99, February.
    2. Alan de Brauw & John Giles, 2017. "Migrant Opportunity and the Educational Attainment of Youth in Rural China," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 52(1), pages 272-311.
    3. Xinxin Chen & Qiuqiong Huang & Scott Rozelle & Yaojiang Shi & Linxiu Zhang, 2009. "Effect of Migration on Children's Educational Performance in Rural China," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Association for Comparative Economic Studies, vol. 51(3), pages 323-343, September.
    4. Daniel Shek & Cecilia Ma, 2010. "Dimensionality of the Chinese Positive Youth Development Scale: Confirmatory Factor Analyses," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 98(1), pages 41-59, August.
    5. Rachel Sun & Daniel Shek, 2010. "Life Satisfaction, Positive Youth Development, and Problem Behaviour Among Chinese Adolescents in Hong Kong," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 95(3), pages 455-474, February.
    6. Patrick Royston, 2009. "Multiple imputation of missing values: Further update of ice, with an emphasis on categorical variables," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 9(3), pages 466-477, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Artjoms Ivlevs & Milena Nikolova & Carol Graham, 2018. "Emigration, remittances and the subjective well-being of those staying behind," Working Papers 2018-024, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.


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