Given the wide range of challenges left-behind children (LBC) currently experience in rural China and the limited understanding of protective factors to buffer this parent-child separation situation, the primary aim of this study was to examine the prevalence of and protective factors for psychological distress based on national data from the China Family Panel Studies (CFPS) conducted in 2014.
We investigated the associations of individual- and family-related factors with psychological distress in a sample of LBC aged 10–15 using logistic regression. A total of 954 LBC were included in the study.
Overall, 16.1% of LBC were considered to be psychologically distressed. However, the prevalence and level of the psychological distress varied within subgroups of LBC. LBC of primary school age were 1.70 times more likely to experience psychological distress than those of middle school age. Male LBC and LBC of primary school age showed significantly higher levels of psychological distress than their counterparts. With respect to protective factors, the results indicated that the likelihood of experiencing psychological distress significantly decreased with higher levels of self-esteem, academic performance, interpersonal relationships, positive parenting, and a higher level of education for the mother.
To reduce the likelihood of psychological distress of LBC, the findings suggest a need for offering self-esteem, academic, and interpersonal support for children. Recognizing that LBC will benefit from positive parenting and higher level of education of the mother is also important in promoting and expanding family services in practice.