“Children with an Absent Parent: Are They Worse-off?”

Franziska Gassmann • Melissa Siegel • Michaella Vanore • Jennifer Waidler
Conference paper Child Poverty and Social Protection Conference • October 2013

Abstract

While it is taken as a given that the absence of a parent, main caregiver, or other family member can significantly affect many aspects of child well-being, the precise relationship between parental absenteeism through migration and child well-being outcomes is still uncertain. Within the field of migration studies increasing attention has been paid to the “left behind”, individuals who remain in the country of origin following the emigration of a household member. Available evidence on the lives of children left behind is scattered, however, due to the limited scope and depth of previous studies, many of which address the phenomenon through small-scale, qualitative studies. Migration of a household member could have both positive and negative effects on the well-being of children who remain in the country of origin: the transfer of remittances and availability of additional resources could enable the household to make increased investments in the education and health of children while enabling them to meet daily consumption needs without problem. At the same time the absence of a care giver could imply less supervision and greater emotional challenges for children. There are generally no universally positive or negative impacts of migration on well-being outcomes. Kandel and Kao (2001) note that there is a tendency to over-simplify potential positive benefits of migration, and nuance is often lost by failing to balance greater material resources against losses of less-easily measured impacts (such as parental supervision).

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