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25-06-2018 | Original Paper | Uitgave 10/2018

Journal of Child and Family Studies 10/2018

Meaning-Making of Motherhood among Rural-to-Urban Migrant Chinese Mothers of Left-Behind Children

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 10/2018
Siu-ming To, Yuk-yan So, Ching-man Kwok


Although numerous studies in the social sciences have examined the needs of left-behind Chinese children and their relationship to parental involvement, the ways in which migrant mothers in China subjectively view their mothering experiences and construct meanings of motherhood remain underexplored. By applying the meaning-making model in the context of stress and coping, we responded to that research issue by examining the experiences of rural-to-urban migrant Chinese mothers in making meanings of motherhood. We purposively selected and invited 30 migrant mothers living in Guangdong Province to narrate their experiences in individual interviews. Each participant had at least one child living in the family’s hometown while both parents had relocated to work elsewhere for at least 6 months. A meticulous thematic analysis of their narratives highlighted recurrent themes surrounding their perceived global meanings of parenting, situational meanings of migrant motherhood, discrepancies between those global and situational meanings, and reappraised meanings. Results revealed that the migrant mothers had relentlessly sought meanings of parenthood amid daunting challenges in childrearing and that meaning-making was particularly important to them in confronting highly stressful mothering experiences induced by their migrant circumstances. The findings also indicate the ways in which global and situational parental meanings support migrant Chinese mothers in gaining a clearer sense of purpose in motherhood and in fulfilling their maternal roles. Such findings illuminate the unique features and processes of meaning-making within the population and expand the applicability of the meaning-making model in the Chinese sociocultural context.

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