Children in Skipped Generation Families in Rural China

This seminar draws on a section of Rachel Murphy’s book, The Children of China’s Great Migration, Cambridge University Press (2020). It explores children’s navigation of their relationship with significant adults in skipped generation families, which is families where both parents worked away in the cities while the children stayed in the countryside in the care of (paternal) grandparents. The analysis adapts Ester Goh’s (2011) concept of ‘intergenerational parenting coalitions’ in seeing the migrant parents and the grandparent caregivers as forming ‘multi-local intergenerational parenting coalitions’. The talk explores heterogeneity in children’s experiences of growing up in these skipped generation families. Children in cohesive intergenerational families usually received much material and emotional support. But if the middle generation and the elder generation were in conflict or the migrant parents remitted little the children could lack nurturing. Children’s closeness to their grandparents vis-à-vis their migrant parents also varied, influenced by who they had spent most time with. Nevertheless, all children in skipped generation families enjoyed closer relationships with their migrant parents if the two sides interacted regularly. Visits to the city during the school holidays also offered many of these children opportunities to interact with their migrant parents. But their experiences of these visits was influenced by the urban lot of their migrant parents.