Parental absence and preference development in left-behind children: an experimental study in rural China

Please note that the advertised date and time submitted to the printed Gazette is incorrect. 7 May, 5pm is the correct date and time.

China is witnessing significant rural-urban migration and rising divorce rates which potentially may lead to a far-reaching impact on the development of over 60 million children. Whilst the existing literature has explored the impact of parental absence on the health and education of children, the impact on their preference formation has seldom been investigated. OPHI’s Visiting Fellow, Professor Yexin Zhou, will discuss the results of his large-scale field experiment which looked into the preferences of 1,632 rural children ranging from the ages of 6 to 16. He and his team found that being left-behind led to an increase in pro-social behaviour and an increased appetite for risk, but it also resulted in poorer performance at competitive activities, as well as issues with reliability and trust. Being left-behind by both parents was found to have a significant influence, whilst the experience of being left-behind did not continue to affect children after their parents had returned. Children who were left-behind were found to be affected in similar ways to children being raised within single parent families as a result of death or divorce.