A Qualitative Study of Rural-To-Urban Migrant Chinese Mothers’ Experiences in Mother-Child Interactions and Self-Evaluation

  • Siu-ming ToEmail author
  • Ching-man Lam
  • Yuk-yan So


While previous research has highlighted the crucial role of parental support and parent-child communication in enhancing the quality of life of left-behind children in China, little research has investigated how migrant parents’ perceptions of parent-child interactions relate to their self-evaluation in parenthood and affect their parental well-being. This qualitative study adopted a symbolic interactionist perspective of identity construction to develop a heuristic tool to examine the narratives collected through individual interviews with 30 rural-to-urban migrant Chinese mothers regarding their experiences in maintaining ties with their children and how such experiences relate to their self-evaluation in motherhood. This study identified four types of maternal self-evaluation. The first type of mothers had few interactions with their children and constructed their maternal self mainly out of the cultural and social understanding of motherhood. The second type of mothers were able to maintain relational connectedness with their children and evaluated their maternal self positively. The third type of mothers had unfavorable parent-child interactions and constructed a resigned and gloomy view of their maternal self. The last type also evaluated their maternal identity negatively, but they maintained hope to redeem the maternal self through changing parental practices. The research findings demonstrate the complexity, diversity, and malleability of the construction of maternal identity among migrant mothers in China. They also provide insights into a number of initiatives that could potentially promote the well-being of migrant mothers and support their families.


Motherhood Parenting Parental identity Migrant parents Left-behind children China 



This study was funded by the General Research Fund 2015/16 of the Research Grant Council, The Hong Kong SAR Government (RGC Ref No. 14603015).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were approved by the Survey and Behavioral Research Ethics Committee of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (ref. number: 14603015).

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) and Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social WorkThe Chinese University of Hong KongMa Liu ShuiHong Kong

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