Parental absence during childhood and intergenerational solidarity in adulthood in China



We aim to examine whether having been separated from parents during childhood influences multiple dimensions of intergenerational solidarity during adulthood.


In developing countries, many children experience geographic separation from one or both parents due to parental out-migration. Previous research has examined the concurrent effects of parental migration on parent–child relationships, but little is known about the long-term implications of parental absence during childhood for intergenerational relationships in adulthood.


Our study used data from the China Family Panel Studies (2010 and 2016) to examine the relationship between mothers’ and fathers’ absence during childhood and intergenerational solidarity during adulthood. The sample includes adult respondents aged 25–54 with a living mother or father in 2016, generating 8889 respondent-mother and 7159 respondent-father dyads. We estimated multilevel regression models predicting emotional, associational, and functional solidarity with the mother and the father during adulthood.


For both mother and father, the parent’s absence during childhood is negatively associated with children’s closeness to and frequency of seeing the parent in adulthood. Parental absence during childhood has little impact on the economic and instrumental support of parents in adulthood. A longer duration of parental absence has a stronger detrimental impact on intergenerational solidarity than a shorter duration for both mother–child and father–child relationships. Moreover, one parent’s absence during childhood can influence the child’s relationship with the other parent during adulthood (a spillover effect).


Parents’ absence during childhood has long-term implications for parent–child relationships during adulthood.

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