Psychotic-like experiences, trauma and related risk factors among “left-behind” children in China

Document Type



School of Nursing and Midwifery, East Africa



Large scale migration of workers due to wage differences across regions of China has separated millions of children, called “left-behind children” from their parents. Psychotic-like experiences (PLEs) are thought to be associated with childhood deprivation and may predict later psychotic disorders but have not been studied in this potentially vulnerable population


Data were collected from representative samples of students in thirteen middle schools in the Xiangxi region and Changsha city of Hunan province (N = 6623), of whom 1360 (21.3%) were “left-behind” children. Children were surveyed with the positive frequency subscales of the Community Assessment of Psychic Experiences and the Trauma History Questionnaire child version.


More “left-behind” children reported experiencing PLEs than others. They also scored higher on the overall frequency of PLEs, severity of childhood trauma, and the subjectively perceived psychological impact of trauma both at the time of the events and at present. Compared with “left-behind” children raised by a parent or by grandparents, those raised by others reported suffering more severe impact both at the time of the events and at present. Among “left-behind” children trauma history was the most important correlate of PLEs followed by Han ethnicity, older age, and not having a stable family income.


“Left-behind” children are at higher risk for PLEs and suffer more traumatic events than other Chinese children. Interventions that reduce trauma risk and improve relationships with caregivers may be helpful, especially for older “left-behind” children.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Schizophrenia Research

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.