Parental Migration and Self-efficacy among Rural-origin Adolescents in China: Patterns and Mechanisms



Large-scale rural-to-urban migration has shaped the socialization contexts of rural adolescents in China and can potentially impact their developmental outcomes. In this study, using data from the first wave of the China Education Panel Study collected in 2013, we focused on self-efficacy, an important but under-studied facet of non-cognitive development, and assessed how it was influenced by family migration status. We also explored the mediating role of family and school resources. We compared three groups of rural-origin adolescents with different family migration statuses: rural left-behind children (LBC), rural not-left-behind children (NLBC), and rural-to-urban migrant children (MC). Structural equation modeling was performed to estimate the main effects of rural-origin groups on self-efficacy and the mediating effects of family income, family social capital, and school social capital for the significant group effects on self-efficacy. We found similar levels of self-efficacy among MC and NLBC, who in turn, exhibited greater self-efficacy than LBC. Discrepancies in family and school resources mediated the self-efficacy gaps between LBC and their MC and NLBC counterparts. Notably, when their disadvantages in family and school resources were controlled for, LBC were more efficacious than MC and NLBC, indicating LBC’s resilience and the potential for promoting self-efficacy in LBC by providing adequate resources and support.


Ming Wen Joined the University of Hong Kong in the Fall of 2022 as the Dean of Social Sciences. She started her academic career at the University of Utah in 2003, where she rose through the academic ranks to full professorship in 2013 and chaired the Department of Sociology from 2015 to 2021. She is currently Deputy Editor of the Journal of Social and Behavioral Science, the medical sociology flagship journal at the American Sociological Association, and served as a Standing Member for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Community Influences on Health Behavior study section from 2013 to 2017.

Wen is a population scholar studying the social determinants of health and human development across the life course, with broad training in sociology, epidemiology, and statistics. Her US-based studies have examined the place and family effects on various health and lifestyle outcomes across the life course. Her recent China-based work focuses on how family rural-to-urban migration plays a role in child developmental outcomes and how living arrangements and socio-relational characteristics affect health and well-being among middle-aged and older adults. Wen has published prolifically on social contexts of population outcomes in top-specialty or top-generalist journals such as Demography, Social Forces, Social Science & Medicine, Journal of Gerontology, Child Development, Milbank Quarterly, Social Science & Research, and American Journal of Public Health. Her research has been widely cited and generously funded by the NIH and various private foundations.

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