Limited international research exists on reasons for transnational child care, or developmental consequences of separations and reunions on young Chinese children. This descriptive study portrays a sample of children from Chinese migrant families residing in western Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, whose parents temporarily relinquished their care to grandparents in China. Data were collected via retrospective health record audits. The majority of parents were first-time parents and the majority of children were first-borns sent back to China during infancy. The average duration of transnational parent–child separation was 20 months. Results showed that male child subjects who experienced multiple transnational separations and reunions were more vulnerable to problems associated with disrupted attachment. This study links parental decision for transnational child care and feelings of disempowerment in their parenting role with patriarchal family values and expectations, and their own adverse early experiences. This study may assist child and family health (CFH) professionals identify, understand and help Chinese parents who may be considering transnational child care to avoid or ameliorate adverse consequences, or alternatively, to support parents following reunion to establish or re-establish attachment relationships with their child, and parent well to optimise their child’s development. Study findings increase the evidence base on reasons for transnational child care, and the complex range of developmental and psychological problems children and parents in this study faced following reunion.


Australia, Chinese, parent–child, separation, transnational


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