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Existing research has found that parental migration may negatively impact the psychological adjustment of left-behind children. However, limited longitudinal research has examined if and how future orientation (individual protective factor) and social support (contextual protective factor) are associated with the indicators of psychological adjustment (i.e., life satisfaction, school satisfaction, happiness, and loneliness) of left-behind children. In the current longitudinal study, we examined the differences in psychological adjustment between left-behind children and non-left behind children (comparison children) in rural areas, and explored the protective roles of future orientation and social support on the immediate (cross-sectional effects) and subsequent (lagged effects) status of psychological adjustment for both groups of children, respectively. The sample included 897 rural children (Mage = 14.09, SD = 1.40) who participated in two waves of surveys across six months. Among the participants, 227 were left-behind children with two parents migrating, 176 were with one parent migrating, and 485 were comparison children. Results showed that, (1) left-behind children reported lower levels of life satisfaction, school satisfaction, and happiness, as well as a higher level of loneliness in both waves; (2) After controlling for several demographics and characteristics of parental migration among left-behind children, future orientation significantly predicted life satisfaction, school satisfaction, and happiness in both cross-sectional and longitudinal regression models, as well as loneliness in the longitudinal regression analysis. Social support predicted immediate life satisfaction, school satisfaction, and happiness, as well as subsequent school satisfaction. Similar to left-behind children, comparison children who reported higher scores in future orientation, especially future expectation, were likely to have higher scores in most indicators of psychological adjustment measured at the same time and subsequently. However, social support seemed not exhibit as important in the immediate status of psychological adjustment of comparison children as that of left-behind children. Findings, implications, and limitations of the present study were discussed.

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APA Citation

Su, S., Li, X., Lin, D., & Zhu, M. (2017). Future orientation, social support, and psychological adjustment among left-behind children in rural china: A longitudinal study. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1309.