Parents' migration can help, but also affect childhood

Last Updated: Sun, Jan 06, 2013 11:50 hrs

Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 6 (IANS) Parents' migration for jobs may bring economic advantages to children, but these may be offset by disruption and absence of familial interactions, says a study in Kerala.

The study, by the research unit on international migration at the Centre for Development Studies here, focused on effects parental migration has on children both in households and boarding schools. The state has witnessed a sustained migration since the 1970s, particularly to the Gulf nations.

According to the study, when asked how they viewed the migration of each of their parents, a significant number of children whose both parents have migrated felt mother's migration had more negative connotations than father's. But girls felt more strongly about parents' migration than boys.

"Female respondents were more vigorous in stating their negative perceptions of the event of maternal and paternal migration, compared to male respondents."

The common responses to and consequences of parents' migration were loneliness, unhappiness and increased maturity.

Almost universally, respondents also reported missing their parents after they migrated, said S. Irudayarajan, who conducted the study with Aparna Nair.

Till 2008, an estimated 2.2 million people from Kerala were working abroad while 0.9 million lived and worked in other states of the country.

The data was gathered from respondents aged between 12 and 18 in two sites -- households (6,575 participants) and boarding schools (1,044 participants in eight schools in four districts).

The study found out that remittances were most commonly utilised for education, school fees and purchase of educational books and equipment.

Remittances were also spent on recreational purposes such as going out with friends as well as buying items such as cameras and iPods.

Another revelation was that parental migration did influence growth and physical development of children.

Respondent youths from migrant households were taller and heavier on an average than those in the same age bracket with non-migrant parents.

The survey also found that the frequency of consumption of high-protein food such as milk, eggs, fish, chicken and meat was higher among respondents with migrant parents compared to others.

Likewise, frequency of consumption of health drinks was also higher among the surveyed children.

A difference was also noticed in the consumption pattern of carbonated soft drinks and fast foods among them compared to others.

Parental migration also influenced the type of medical care sought as respondents from non-migrant households were more likely to turn to public health facilities.

Migration also increased chances that households would seek care through private and expensive medical consultations.

The study is significant in view of the three-day Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, a gathering of non-resident and overseas Indians, beginning in Kochi from Monday.

"Childhood and adolescence are challenging and turbulent periods in most individuals' lives and are attended by marked physical, developmental and psychological changes. Parental migration could make this transitory phase even more challenging than usual," the authors said.

"Migration has the potential to result in real changes in the perspective, behaviours and physical, social and economic realities of the lives of children left behind," says the survey.

Around 49 percent of all household respondents were females.

The boarding school sample comprised of a greater percentage of males (60.2 percent) than females (39.8 percent).

Irudayarajan said these were preliminary conclusions drawn from the results of a large survey.

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