Putting Children at Risk—Chinese Labor Bosses, American Divorce Lawyers

Progressives always style themselves as champions of children. Yet these defenders of children often evince a curious insouciance about a social circumstance—namely, parental absence—known to put children at risk.  A new study establishing that children suffer when they lose contact with parents comes out of China, where many hard-pressed rural parents have in recent years been leaving their children behind while they seek urban employment. But the authors of this study recognize the pattern they limn as one reflecting not only the effect of 21st-century employment patterns in China but also the likely effect of 21st-century divorce in Western lands.  Researchers in China have recently expressed concern about the emotional well-being of “a considerable number of children in rural areas in China [who] have been experiencing long-term parental absence, given their parents have migrated to urban area [sic] as rural laborers for city building.” Affiliated with a number of Chinese universities (including Nanjing Normal University, the University of Hong Kong, Nantong University, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University) and Old Dominion University in the United States, these researchers recently set out to examine the psychological health of “left-behind children,” explaining that this term is one “referring specifically to the children who live at their original residence with one or both parent(s) having left home and migrated to other places for more than 6 months” for employment, typically in some distant urban center. Acknowledging that recent empirical research on “the psychological status of left-behind children in China . . . [has] contributed greatly to the literature on the relationship between parental absence and child development,” the researchers cite earlier studies concluding that, “compared with non-left-behind children, left-behind children . . . [are] more likely to have emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety”
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