Chinese left-behind children have faced a high level of stress and tend to engage in nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) behavior. However, the impacts of parental migration on NSSI are complex. The improved family’s socioeconomic status (SES) could have positive impacts on these children’s mental health, yet the parental absence could have negative influences. To explore the complex dynamics of parental migration on NSSI, this study examined the roles of parent–child cohesion and SES in the relationship between stressful life events and NSSI.
A total of 509 left-behind children completed self-report surveys that addressed stressful life events, NSSI, parent–child cohesion, and SES.
Stressful life events were positively related to NSSI in both the migrant father and two migrant parents’ groups. Furthermore, for children with migrant fathers, father–child cohesion and SES significantly moderated the relation between stressful life events and NSSI. The interaction of stressful life events, mother–child cohesion, and SES also was significant. For children with two migrant parents, mother–child cohesion was negatively related to NSSI. No significant interactions were found in this group.
The findings suggested that, although parent–child cohesion and SES were both important for the prevention of NSSI among left-behind children, parent–child cohesion should remain a priority.