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17-01-2018 | Uitgave 4/2018

Quality of Life Research 4/2018

Parent–child separation: the relationship between separation and psychological adjustment among Chinese rural children

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 4/2018
Wenjian Xu, Ni Yan, Gang Chen, Xing Zhang, Tingyong Feng



The current study aimed to explore the characteristics of psychological adjustment among Chinese left-behind children (LBC) in rural areas, and to examine the association between separation duration from parent/parents (SDP) and children’s psychological adjustment and the extent to which personality mediates this hypothesized link.


We surveyed 534 rural children and adolescents aged 10–17 years at school (440 LBC and 94 non-LBC) in 2013, who were selected for participation using stratified cluster sampling from two counties in Chongqing, China. Measures used included socio-demographic variables, age at the commencement and end of the separation from parents, the revised Chinese Juvenile Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, and the Adolescent Psychological Adaptability Scale.


Most children (82.4%) had experienced separation from parents. t test results showed a marginally significant difference (p = .08) in psychological adjustment between LBC (mean = 64.44, SD = 8.62) and non-LBC (mean = 66.16, SD = 9.26). LBC’s mean SDP was 5.64 years (SD = 3.90). Correlation analysis showed that children’s SDP was negatively associated with psychological adjustment. Structural equation modeling showed that neuroticism, but not extraversion or psychoticism, fully mediated the link between children’s SDP and psychological adjustment.


Personality (neuroticism) is one of the mediating pathways through which long-term SDP may predict poor psychological adjustment among children. Given the detrimental impact of long-term SDP, interventions should target the mediating pathway to buffer against the negative impact of parental separation on the affected rural children and to improve their mental health.

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