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Liu, Jieyu (2022) 'Childhood and rural to urban migration in China: A tale of three villages.' Children and Society. pp. 1-16. (Forthcoming)

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This article examines how, for many in rural China, experiences of childhood are entangled within the complex processes of rural-to-urban internal migration. Drawing upon multi-generational life history data in three villages, it unpacks three common types of childhood experience. In Village A, where married men migrated but wives stayed behind, children grew up with ‘absent fathers’. In Village B, both parents migrated to cities for work, leaving their children predominantly cared for by grandmothers as a surrogate. In Village C, where parents often took their children to a city with them, the children and their family had to navigate a hostile urban environment that rendered those of rural origin second-class citizens. Whilst childhood experiences in each setting were distinctive and shaped by their geographies, they shared common features reflecting the urban-rural divide and social inequalities embedded in Chinese society. In the public discourse, institutionalized inequalities experienced by rural communities are often disguised and downplayed with the focus instead on parental separation and the impact on ‘left-behind’ children. This article reveals it is the stability and quality of care arrangements, rather than mere separation from parents, that is critical to the development of the emotional well-being of children. Theoretically, the analysis contributes to global scholarship on the dynamics between migration, inequalities and childhood experiences and calls for a broader framing of the debate beyond the dominant concern with physical separation.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Gender, migration, China, life history research
SOAS Departments & Centres: Regional Centres and Institutes > SOAS China Institute
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Women
H Social Sciences
ISSN: 09510605
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2022 17:53
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council, European Union

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