Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 45, Issue 6, pp 655–664

Emotional and behavioral problems of Chinese left-behind children: a preliminary study

  • Fang Fan
  • Linyan Su
  • Mary Kay Gill
  • Boris Birmaher
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00127-009-0107-4

Cite this article as:
Fan, F., Su, L., Gill, M.K. et al. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol (2010) 45: 655. doi:10.1007/s00127-009-0107-4

Abstract

Objective

To examine the behavioral and emotional problems and their correlates in left-behindchildren (LBC) in the Hunan Province of China.

Methods

A sample of 1,274 schoolchildren (48.7% girls; 12.4 ± 2.2 years old) completed the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire and their current caregivers completed questionnaires about caregiver/bio-parent’s demographics and teachers’ involvement with the family.

Results

There were 629 (49%) children with a history of being left behind, of which 486 were currently cared for by a relative (RLC) and 41 by a non-relative (NRC). As much as 102 had a past history of being left behind, but were currently living with one or more biological parents at the time of the survey (PLB). A total of 645 (51%) children had no history of being left behind and were included as controls. LBC had significantly more psychopathology and less pro-social behaviors than the controls. These differences, with the exception of more hyperactivity and less pro-social behaviors, disappeared after adjusting for age, education and socioeconomic status of the children, parents/caregivers, and the involvement of the teachers. The psychopathology of LBC was significantly inversely correlated with these variables. Long duration and being left behind at a younger age were significantly associated with more psychopathology. Overall, NRC showed more psychopathology, followed by PLB and then RLC. However, with the exception of pro-social behaviors, after adjusting for demographic variables and duration of being left behind, all differences disappeared.

Conclusions

LBC are at risk to develop emotional/behavior problems, particularly if they are left behind early in life, for longer periods, in the care of young caregivers or nonrelatives with poor education and low socioeconomic status, and with less teacher support. Strategies to prevent the development of psychopathology and its amelioration, and governmental policies to decrease the rates of LBC are warranted.

Keywords

ChinaLeft-behind childrenPsychopathology

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fang Fan
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Linyan Su
    • 2
  • Mary Kay Gill
    • 3
  • Boris Birmaher
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Studies of Psychological ApplicationSouth China Normal UniversityGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Mental Health Institute, 2nd Xiangya HospitalCentral South UniversityChangshaChina
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry, Western Psychiatric Institute and ClinicUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical CenterPittsburghUSA