Left-behind children in rural China experience higher levels of anxiety and poorer living conditions

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Abstract

Aim:

The number of rural Chinese parents who leave their children with family members to work in the cities has increased dramatically over the last decade. This study compared the social anxiety of left-behind children (LBC) and children not left behind (non-LBC).

Methods:

We investigated 1694 LBC and 1223 non-LBC, aged seven to 17 years, in a Chinese province using a structured questionnaire that included questions about socio-demographic characteristics, social anxiety, family function, quality of life, neglect and physical abuse.

Results:

LBC displayed higher social anxiety scores, more neglect, lower parental educational level, lower quality of life, lower family function and lower prevalence of physical abuse than non-LBC. Multiple linear regression models showed that higher Social Anxiety Scales for Children (SASC) scores in LBC were clearly associated with lower quality of life, poorer family function, physical abuse, being female, having more siblings and minorities. In non-LBC, they were associated with lower quality of life, poorer family function, neglect, being female and physical abuse.

Conclusion:

LBC have a relatively higher level of social anxiety and poorer living conditions than non-LBC, and there are differences in social anxiety, and its relevant factors, between the two groups.

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