Multifinality of parental economic migration: The longitudinal interplay between risk and resilience factors predicting children's well-being

Young Teams Project number
Contract number TE 36/2022
Financing source: Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research, CNCS – UEFISCDI


Globally, there is a staggering 83% increase of the international migrant population, from 153 million in 1990 to 281 million in 2020 (United Nations, 2020), with the majority of these migrants originating from low-/middle-income economies in search of employment (International Organization for Migration, 2020). Consequently, there is a growing number of children ‘left-behind’ in their country of origin, with official estimates suggesting over half a million children of migrants left behind in European countries. The public representation is that these children’s short and long-term well-being is highly impacted by this separation. Nevertheless, the literature contains conflicting evidence, in some cases indicating no significant differences between ‘left-behind’ children and their counterparts.
The current status of the ‘left-behind’ children research faces multiple limitations and challenges. The first one concerns the disregard of outcome variability in ‘left-behind’ children.

The current representation of these children is negative and mostly based on studies in rural China, while findings on European children are mostly conflicting with regards to the outcomes of parental migration. These contradicting findings imply that the relationship between parental migration and child well-being outcomes is not straightforward, highlighting that focusing solely on the average effects of parental migration: (1) conceals the sizable degree of variability that exists in children’s adjustment, and consequently, (2) impedes the development of literature-informed risk-assessment tools for children’s post-migration maladjustment, ultimately (3) obstructing children’s access to effective intervention/ prevention strategies when facing temporary parental separation.

Secondly, given the contradicting evidence suggesting children’s well-being multifinality following parental migration, the next challenge is: Why do some children display affective-behavioural problems and school performance decrements as a consequence of parental economic (temporary) migration, while others remain relatively invulnerable to such problems or even thrive? This highlights the need to investigate this issue accounting for possible key factors that, in the presence of parental migration, lead to different patterns of adaptation.


The general aim is to extend the current limited understanding regarding the impact of parental migration upon children’s psychosocial well-being. 

First, we aim to investigate the independent and interactive contributions of potential risk and resilience factors involved in school-children’s post-parental migration outcomes (i.e., internalizing symptoms, conduct and peer-relations problems, academic outcomes). In this respect, we will:  

  • Investigate the roles of migration-specific factors (family’s financial stress, parent-child relationship, caregiving arrangements) that, in the presence of parental migration, lead to different paths in terms of psychosocial well-being. 
  • Investigate the contributions of individual characteristics that, based on the general research of children’s psychosocial well-being, may act as risk or resilience factors (emotion regulation strategies, prioritizing negative information – towards self and/or others) in interaction with/ independent of migration-specific contextual factors. 

Second, by employing a 3-wave longitudinal design, we aim to investigate: 

  • Children’s well-being outcome stability following parental migration
  • The independent and interactive risk for later adjustment problems generated by individual and migration-specific factors.


The project is relevant for both researchers in the field of child development, as well as for practitioners and policy makers in child wellbeing, healthcare, and education. 

  • Findings will bring substantial empirical advancements related to the impact of parental separation on school-children’s psychosocial wellbeing by including personal socio-cognitive and emotional factors as well as migration-related factors within the same longitudinal design. 
  • This will open new paths for investigating children’s wellbeing multifinality when facing different types of parental separation and constitute starting points for studying:
    • 1) the predictive power of individual and contextual characteristics in relation to adjustment to parental separation;
    • 2) the putative dependency of children’s wellbeing outcome stability on contextual changes. 
  • The project also has potential for crucial social impact, as revealing specific risk and resilience factors related to maladjustment to parental migration will facilitate:
    • 1) the development of literature-informed risk-assessment tools for children’s post-migration maladjustment;
    • 2) children’s access to effective intervention/ prevention strategies when facing temporary parental separation.

Team members