Migrant Mothering in Transition: A Qualitative Study of the Maternal Narratives and Practices of Two Generations of Rural-Urban Migrant Mothers in Southern China

Yinni PENG*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In the last few decades, mothering in many societies has been affected by mass migration. Although migrant mothering is acknowledged to be dynamic, diverse, and continually reproduced in specific socio-cultural contexts, its transformation over generations has been ignored. Drawing on qualitative data obtained from 61 rural-urban migrant women in southern China, I compare the narratives of two generations of migrant mothers and their daily mothering of their left-behind children, revealing how the intersection of gender, class, and the rural-urban divide in China shapes their gendered ideology and performance of childcare over time. Whereas first-generation migrant mothers perceive good mothering as helping their children to start their own families and establish careers and therefore prioritize economic support for their children’s life endeavors as their main expression of maternal love and care, new-generation migrant mothers devote themselves to their children’s overall needs, focus more on the quality of the mother-child relationship, and adopt various strategies to meet their children’s emotional and educational needs. The present study gives a voice to migrant mothers, confronting the biased stereotype of migrant mothers as irresponsible parents and helping them to construct meanings for their maternal experiences during family separation. Documenting the transition in migrant mothering also underscores the importance of recognizing the changing needs of migrant mothers and their left-behind children over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-35
Number of pages20
JournalSex Roles
Volume79
Issue number1-2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

User-Defined Keywords

  • Childrearing practices
  • China
  • Left-behind children
  • Migration
  • Mother-child communication
  • Mother-child relations
  • Mothering

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