• Open Access

Migrant Parents and the Psychological Well-Being of Left-Behind Children in Southeast Asia


  • School of Social Sciences, International Centre for Child Well-Being, University of Southampton, Southampton, Hampshire SO17 1BJ, UK.

  • This paper was edited by Valentina Mazzucato.

  • Re-use of this article is permitted in accordance with the Terms and Conditions set out at http://wileyonlinelibrary.com/onlineopen#OnlineOpen_Terms

School of Geography and Geosciences, Irvine Building, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Fife KY16 9AL, UK (efg@st-andrews.ac.uk).


Several million children currently live in transnational families, yet little is known about impacts on their health. We investigated the psychological well-being of left-behind children in four Southeast Asian countries. Data were drawn from the CHAMPSEA study. Caregiver reports from the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) were used to examine differences among children under age 12 by the migration status of their household (N = 3,876). We found no general pattern across the four study countries: Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Multivariate models showed that children of migrant fathers in Indonesia and Thailand are more likely to have poor psychological well-being, compared to children in nonmigrant households. This finding was not replicated for the Philippines or Vietnam. The paper concludes by arguing for more contextualized understandings.