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Social Psychological Wellbeing of Left-behind Children in Rural China: Myths, Concerns, and Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Study

December 6, 2019 @ 12:00 pm - 1:15 pm

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Weatherhead East Asian Institute Event

Please join for a lecture with:

Shenyang Guo, Frank J. Bruno Distinguished Professor of Social Work Research,

Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis 

Moderated by:

Qin Gao, Professor of Social Policy and Social Work,

Columbia School of Social Work


The year 2018 symbolized the 40th anniversary of China’s launch of the economic reform and open-the-door policies. The 40-years’ rapid economic development has made China the second largest economy in the world, and brought about dramatic social changes in the country as well. One direct effect of the reforms was the creation of the so-called “left-behind children” who live in the rural areas while their parents moved to the cities for better economic opportunities. About 61 million children are estimated to be left-behind children. There are growing concerns among child-protective groups about the wellbeing of these children, because this is a vulnerable subpopulation who lacked attachment, warmth, affection, and care at a crucial age of development.

In this talk, Prof. Shenyang Guo will introduce the “Let’s Be Friends—Shaanxi” project which aimed to assess and improve the social information processing skills of left-behind children. The project focused on children at ages 8-10, a crucial age span for children’s socialization and development. Using a rich set of measures and rigorous analytical methods, the study finds that left-behind children did not fare worse than other children. Of the 30 outcome variables examined, only four show significant differences; the remaining 26 variables are not statistically significant with mixed findings about directions of the differences. Prof. Guo concludes that the outcomes of left-behind children may not be as bad as non-scientific news reports demonstrate, though further research is very much needed.



Shenyang Guo is Frank J Bruno Distinguished Professor at Brown School of Washington University in St. Louis, and the Yangtze-River Chaired Professor at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Xi’an Jiaotong University. He is the author of numerous research articles in child welfare, child mental health services, welfare, and health care. He is the author/co-author of Propensity Score Analysis, Survival Analysis, and Structural Equation Modeling. He has expertise in applying advanced statistical models to solving social welfare problems and has taught graduate courses that address survival analysis, hierarchical linear modeling, growth curve modeling, propensity score analysis, and program evaluation. In addition, Guo is the Editor of Sage Publications’ Advanced Quantitative Techniques in the Social Sciences Series, serves on the editorial board of Social Service Review, and is a frequent guest reviewer for journals seeking a critique of advanced methodological analyses. Guo is a fellow of American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, and a fellow of Society of Social Work and Research. At Washington University in St. Louis, Guo is Assistant Vice Chancellor for International Affairs – Greater China.


This is a Weatherhead East Asian Institute 2019-2020 Lecture Series event.

No registration required.



December 6, 2019

12:00 PM-1:15 PM



School of Social Work, Room C05

1255 Amsterdam Ave


Cosponsored by China Center for Social Policy


December 6, 2019
12:00 pm - 1:15 pm
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