The aim of our study was to systematically review studies which had compared self-concept in left-behind children with the general population of children in China. Relevant studies about self-concept of left-behind children in China published from 2004 to 2014 were sought by searching online databases including Chinese Biological Medicine Database (CBM), Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), Wanfang Database, Vip Database, PubMed Database, Google Scholar and Web of Science. The methodological quality of the articles was assessed by using Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS). Poled effect size and associated 95% confidence interval (CI) were calculated using the random effects model. Cochrane's Q was used to test for heterogeneity and I2 index was used to determine the degree of heterogeneity. Nineteen studies involving 7758 left-behind children met the inclusion criteria and 15 studies were included in a meta-analysis. The results indicated that left-behind group had a lower score of self-concept and more psychological problems than the control group. The factors associated with self-concept in left-behind children were gender, age, grade and the relationships with parents, guardians and teachers. Left-behind children had lower self-concept and more mental health problems compared with the general population of children. The development of self-concept may be an important channel for promoting mental health of left-behind children.