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The impact of international migration on left-behind undergraduate students’ overall well-being in Nepal

12:16 pm, July 9, 2021

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Prajwal Badalhttps://informnepal.com
Prajwal Badal the editor of Inform Nepal. He is also a researcher, community development worker, and advocate.


Major consequences as a result of international migration are seen on the children that are left behind. The migration of a parent or a close family member increases the chances of serious mental as well as physical health issues in the children. It was found out that children that were left behind struggled emotionally, psychologically, socially. Many of them lost interest in the field of education but gained access to materialistic possession. Even so, the children long for their parents’ presence and live unsatisfied childhood with a sense of loneliness and incompleteness. The degradation in their health is concerning. This issue in Nepal has been more visible as the rate of migration from Nepal has peaked. The government, policymakers, and practitioners must look into this and put on their full strength to enhance the child’s growth and happiness.

Keywords: Migration; Children; Well-being; Remittance


1.1 Background:

International Migration can have significant consequences for sending countries as well as receiving areas. The magnitude of consequences is often limitedly linked to the economy and economic development. The impact of international migration may take many forms. It could be for business purposes, forced migration, or a child migrating alone with dependents left behind which has the same consequences. Various questions on the impact of such migration on children are often raised along with their long-term reliance on the migrant for support even though they get to a point when they are capable.

The migration of parents (father, mother, or both) is widespread in Nepal, where they leave their children either with their grandparents, guardians, or even alone. This paper has been prepared as a practical report on issues of migration of parents and the status of left-behind children. Despite the economic benefits generated by labor migration, parental absence may lead directly to decreased care, stimulation, and supervision of children. As the lengthy physical presence and high quality of care with the strong emotional investment are critical factors in maintaining attachment in relationships, during long periods of parent-child separation, children of all ages may develop negative emotions and feelings that disrupt attachment bonds (Zhao, Wang, Zhou, Jiang, & Hesketh, 2018). The few studies that have examined emotional responses to parental migration among children left behind suggest that children of migrant mothers may be especially prone to anger, feelings of being abandoned or unloved, confusion, and worries (Graham & Jordan, 2011). When school-going children are left without parents, they lack close guidance and mentoring from their parents. When the children receive money sent by the parents, they are allowed to use it for themselves, which includes their educational cost, health treatment, and also all of their miscellaneous.

The goal of this paper is to study the impact of parental migration on children. Other literature suggests a negative effect on parent-children relation, psychological stability, and educational performance because of parent-children separation. This paper examines the different forms of impact in children of Nepal.

1.2 Objective: To understand the impact of adult migration on the overall well-being of the children who are left behind


The study method for this paper can be determined through two approaches; primary and secondary. Both primary and secondary forms of data collection methods will be used for this research. Primary data is information collected through original or first-hand research—for example, surveys and focus group discussions. Secondary sources of data will also be used for this paper, which includes information that has been collected in the past by other researchers, or has been published in some form of article, report, or uploaded online — for example, researching the internet, newspaper articles, and reports. Details of different components of the methodology are below:

2.1 Research questions:

1. What is the status of the physical and mental health of children left behind by adult migration?
2. How has the international migration of parents impacted the education of the children?
3. How is the money received as remittance used by children who are left behind by adult migration?

2.2 Research Design:
The study will use a mixed method to answer the research questions. The following table summarizes the methods used to answer each question:

Research Questions and Methods used to answer

What is the status of the physical and mental health of children left behind by adult migration? – Online survey and literature review
How has the international migration of parents impacted the education of the children? – Online survey and Literature Review
How is the money received as remittance used by children who are left behind by adult migration? – Online Survey

2.3 Instrument:

i) Online survey: Due to the mobility constraints, carrying out face-to-face interviews with respondents is a challenge to researchers. Due to this, an online survey will be carried out, focusing on getting answers to the research questions. Online meetings will help generate views of the children left behind by adult migration. The questionnaire for an online survey will be distributed via email, messenger, skype, etc., to reach more respondents. The information acquired will be the primary source, and the data collected will be both qualitative and quantitative.

ii) Literature Review: Further research on information collected through the online survey will be carried out to determine what has been previously established through the literature review. The data acquired will thus be a secondary source, and the data collected will be qualitative.

2.4 Sample:

The respondents for the online survey will be chosen through a convenient sampling method. The respondents will be the children who are left behind in Nepal by the migration of adults to international countries. Respondents for the online survey can be from all over Nepal from different economic, cultural, educational, religious backgrounds. The sample size will be 16 for this study.

2.5 Data collection:

The primary focus for data collection will be the collection of data through an online survey, which is the primary source. Researchers will collect data through an online platform and later do a literature review on the same topic for better understanding.

2.6 Data Analysis:

Different themes will be generated based on the literature review and research questions. The data collected from the research will be kept under various research questions and analyzed accordingly.

2.7 Limitation:

Limitations faced by the researcher so far while carrying out the research are:

i) Due to lockdown and restriction in mobility, accessing the potential respondents who have useful information is difficult. At this time, I, as a researcher could only reach out to people who had access to the internet and could use it properly.


3.1 Research Question 1: What is the status of the physical and mental health of children left behind by adult migration?

Online surveys and literature reviews were carried out to know the physical and mental health of children left behind by adult migration. I carried out quantitative research through Google forms among 16 children living far away from their parents to accurately describe the status of physical and mental health of children left behind, and it correlates with many types of research taking place across the globe.

All the 16 respondents often, always, or sometimes feel a lack of compassion because of their parents residing abroad. 10 out of 16 respondents think that their life would be happier if they had their parents live with them. 11 out of 16 respondents feel motivated, happy, loved, or supported when they talk to their parents over phone calls. 13 out of 16 respondents think that they would be more comfortable in socializing with others if their parents lived with them. 7 out of 16 respondents find their physical, emotional, and social necessities not being met when they do not have their parents live with them. 11 out of 16 respondents do not go for regular checkups and only visit doctors when they are sick since their parents are not with them. This evidence shows the prime need for parental care and affection towards the growth of their children. The first thing a child remembers during a happy, sad, or vulnerable time is their parents. This shows children are fonder of sharing their success, happiness with their parents before anyone else. Children are deeply rooted with their parents in an emotional, social, and psychological point of view. This relationship lays the foundation for the child’s personality, life choices, and overall behavior (Parenting NI, 2018). The attachment with them brings sound physical and mental well-being, while detachment from their parents brings numerous negative impacts.

A child will blossom as a young person only when he/she gets enough parental support, love, guidance, and encouragement. Generally, people believe money is the only tool for parental care, but love, affection, and time spent with them are of higher priority. Time and attention to the children are more essential than monetary investment in children (Sparks, 2020). Jim Rohn has rightly said,” You can get more money, but you can’t get more time.” This holds for children and their growth. A good time spent with children will help build a strong bond with the family. Parents and children’s separation due to adult migration has a profound and immediate negative impact on the child’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. While children may gain materialistic things from remittances sent home, the absence of a parent may be disadvantageous to their social, emotional, and psychological development. Children separated from parents in early childhood are more prone to health and emotional issues than those living with their parents. Children left behind under the supervision of their guardians are often seen working to earn money at a young age. Sometimes the work environment becomes too vulnerable to the children and might get physical injuries or may even be involved in brushes with the law. Long-term separation from parents increases the children’s feelings of abandonment, low self-esteem, and high risk of psychological disorders, including anxiety and depression. Children left behind by adult migration are often seen struggling academically, socially, and emotionally.

Similarly, detachment sometimes brings a barrier between the parents and their children. For instance,
13 out of 16 respondents believe some misunderstanding between them and their parents has arisen due to the distance between them. Furthermore, 12 out of 16 respondents feel more comfortable in sharing their emotions or feelings with other people around them and not their parents abroad. This depicts how children who are left behind deal with loneliness and how it ultimately leads them to seek affection from others apart from their parents. The
parent-children relationship may suffer as they try to adjust their life without their loved ones and replace a fostering relationship with someone else. This sometimes creates a void between the parents and their children, leading to a vast generational disparity between them.

Fig 1: The chart shows the status of the mental and emotional health of respondents due to adult migration. It depicts the majority of them have weak mental/emotional health due to the absence of parental care and affection.

There have been many research types throughout the world, showing the impact of the physical and mental health of children left behind by adult migration. The researchers suggest positive, negative, or no effects on children left behind. However, many kinds of research suggest a huge negative impact on the health of children left behind. UNICEF studies indicate that the health and behavioral risks are more abundant among children living in migrant households: the availability of money, peer pressure, and low supervision can often lead to substance abuse and related troubles (UNICEF). Multiple types of research reveal prolonged separation following migration often disrupts parent-child relationships and results in psychosocial difficulties. A study from Romania supports, “Children who remain behind when their parents leave their countries of origin are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and other emotional and mental health problems” (Botezat, 2008).

3.2 Research Question 2: How is the impact of adult migration on the education of children whose parents are migrated to different countries?

Parent-child separation due to parental migration is increasing alarmingly in developing countries like Nepal. Nepal is a growing supplier of labor migrants
– an estimated 3.5 million Nepali individuals are working abroad – resulting in families being separated and thousands of adolescents being left behind (WHO, n.d.) Apart from the social, physical, mental, and psychological impact of adult migration, there is a significant impact on children’s education as well. In my research, 11 out of 16 respondents are mediocre in the study. 9 out of 16 respondents spend less than an hour for educational purposes. 10 out of 16 do not share their grades with their parents. 12 out of 16 are not transparent about their expenses for educational purposes to their parents. These facts clearly illustrate that the absence of parental presence can harm the education of their children.

Fig 2: 11 of the respondents (68.8%) are mediocre in the study. This is the impact of parental absence or migration.

Parental availability and engagement in children’s lives improve children’s educational outcomes, even after ability and family background are taken into account, (Epstein, 2018). Various research across the world shows that more prolonged periods of parental absence are linked with more reduced educational performance. At first, a child is more likely to have economic and financial benefits of achieving higher education and schooling, which adds as a benefit to the education by parental migration. However, the lack of parental supervision or guidance might affect the decision-making process of the children. It is because the remaining guardian or caregiver may face additional household responsibilities and obligations,

thus, further occasioning a decline in the quantity and quality of care provided to children (McKenzie, 2005). Duties get added when household members leave. This burden of further responsibilities forces children to spend less time on school-related activities and more time on other activities, consequently even dropping out of school. Parental migration often harms the education accomplishment of their children. The children left behind have the maximum probability of discontinuing their education when no parental supervision is present. They might get involved in income-generating activities outside the school, which ultimately makes them disinterested in going to school. These experiences can cause problems in school, leading to poor school performance, school interruption, and even dropout (NCBI, n.d.). The research by SAGE journal suggests that parental migration may provide an alternative route to economic mobility but reduce the motivation to invest in additional years of schooling. Children may also decrease the effort they invest in school (William Kandel).

Furthermore, adult migration directly or indirectly causes an impact on a child’s education. Adult migration has created some detachment between children and their parents. Some young children who are separated from their parents exhibit great distress and indifference from their parents upon reunion (Andrea Smith). This detachment has a significant impact on the education of the children. They are often prone to low self-esteem, emotional hazards, insecurity, adjustment, and health hazards. These factors often cause a child to feel difficulty concentrating on his/her education, which eventually disrupts the educational process.

3.3 Research Question 3: How is the money received as remittance used by children who are left behind by adult migration?

Through the online surveys from google forms, I have tried to collect information about the money received as remittance used by the children who are left behind by adult migration. 11 out of 16 respondents have younger siblings and have the responsibility to take care of them. 11 collect the money themselves sent by the parents from abroad. 10 out of 16 spend the money sent by the parents on education. Likewise, 10 out of 16 spent the money sent by their parents on food. Similarly, 5 out of 16 respondents spend the money on drinks. 4 of them spend the money on clothes, and 3 of them spent on medicine. 1 of the respondents spends the money on the installment of the bike. Furthermore, the majority of them i.e., 12 out of 16, are not transparent about their expenses with their parents. Moreover, 11 out of 16 relatively spend more money as compared to their friends. All the respondents are seen spending money on their basic needs, but most of them lack transparency.

Parental migration makes them financially capable and allows their children to receive remittance. It brings surplus income through remittances, which can support household expenses and savings. Migrants often send home money (i.e., remittances) that benefit those left behind by increasing their consumption and improving their living conditions (Brookings, n.d.) This income effect can significantly lower the requirement for child labor and substantially increase children’s schooling. The money received as remittance is used by children who are left behind by adult migration. In analyzing the positive aspect, remittance plays a crucial role in the development of the children’s careers left behind. The school enrolment of children left behind increases with the presence of an internal or international migrant in the family (Sampath, n.d.). However, it is not always the case. The absence of the primary caregiver can increase children’s probability of dropping out of school and delay school progression. A remittance economy often causes physical, social, and economic divisions within the families. The money received by the children is sometimes misused, and the transparency of the money towards the parents is often neglected. The availability of money, peer pressure, and low supervision can often lead to substance abuse and related troubles (UNICEF, n.d.).

Fig 3: This shows how the children are bringing money/remittance to use.

There are many types of research in different developing countries regarding the money received as remittance used by children who are left behind by adult migration. Using the Gallup World Poll data for 114 countries during 2009–2011, we find that having family members abroad is associated with greater evaluative well-being and positive affect, and receiving remittances is linked with further increases in evaluative well-being, especially in poorer contexts—both across and within countries, (Econ). However, remittance always does not mean happiness neither it assures it. It is often related to materialistic values. Along with economic advantages, remittance might bring a negative impact when used haphazardly by teenagers and adolescents.


In the course of the research, I found the trend of international migration alarmingly high. This has both pros and cons for left-behind children. Materialistic things are better fulfilled through the means of remittance. However, love, affection, and quality time spent with the children during their growth overshadows the materialistic things. The impact on the physical and mental health of children and education by adult migration is innumerable. These findings from my paper try to depict the bitter reality faced by a countless number of children left behind. Even though the sample of the respondent’s size was small, it represents the entire population and then applies the results to the whole population. The mobility constraint by lockdown amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had limited my research within the Internet users only. Had the research been taken

place after the epidemic was over, it would have been better.


This research paper primarily serves to understand the situation of international migration and its impact on children left behind. It has highlighted the physical and mental health of children, the impact on the children’s education, and the remittance used by the children in the absence of their parents. This paper discusses the overall impact on a child’s mental, physical, social, and psychological growth. This problem has been one of the major burning issues the past few decades, which needs to be looked upon.

Based on the results of the paper, the following recommendations are needed to fix the issues as soon as possible to safeguard the childhood of the children left behind:

i. The government, policymakers, and practitioners must be concerned about the issue and promote stability in the government.
ii. Education and employment opportunities should be the prime concern of the political parties.
iii. Parents must know the necessity of mental, psychological, and emotional health of their children.
iv. Caregivers or guardians should pay special proper care and guidance and must be vigilant towards their physical, economic, educational, and emotional well-being.

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