Self-Esteem: A Comparison between Hong Kong Children and Newly Arrived Chinese Children

By Chan, Yiu Man; Chan, Christine Mei-Sheung | Research in Education, November 2004 | Go to article overview
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Self-Esteem: A Comparison between Hong Kong Children and Newly Arrived Chinese Children


Chan, Yiu Man, Chan, Christine Mei-Sheung, Research in Education


Social and cultural contacts between Hong Kong and China have steadily increased since the change-over of Hong Kong from British to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. There are now more Hong Kong residents now working or living in mainland China than at any time in the 1980s. During the long holiday periods, it is common for over a half million Hong Kong commuters to enter Shenzhen, the nearest Chinese border city, for entertainment or shopping. Other large Chinese cities, such as Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing, are also favourite places where many Hong Kongers visit.

As there is a huge gap in living standards between Hong Kong and China, some Hongkongers have taken advantage of this situation by working in Hong Kong to earn more money and by living on the Chinese border to pay less rent or to live in more spacious conditions. The migration business between China and Hong Kong is not new. It can be traced to the 1960s and 1970s, when legal and illegal Chinese migrants flooded into Hong Kong. Since the 1980s onwards, from the time of the Hong Kong economic boom, the numbers of Hong Kong bachelors travelling to China to look for a life partner have become increasingly common (Skeldon, 1994; Cheng, 1982). Nevertheless, their Chinese wives and children have found it difficult to get the right of abode in Hong Kong owing to tight Hong Kong immigration controls. Many have had to wait a long time to get the One-way permit' for entry into Hong Kong. With no mandatory return requirement, initially the permit provided for a daily allowance of 105 mainland Chinese people to settle in Hong Kong in 1993, and since 1995 the figure has increased to 150 people a day.

At the time of writing, the immigration rules allow a quota of 150 Chinese mainlanders, including sixty children per day. In 2001 there were about 54,000 mainlanders who migrated to Hong Kong, with about 10,000 studying in primary or secondary schools (Census and Statistics Department, 2002). Both the Education Department and Social Service Department claimed that they had prepared for the coming of the newly arrived children - they promised to arrange school places within three months of arrival and they offered special supportive programmes to the families. As in many other countries, migration brings new changes to the newcomers. The background of newly arrived Chinese children differs from the host society. Apart from the right of abode issue, families with newly arrived children face additional social problems, such as unemployment, low-paying jobs or discrimination, and they also need to face internal problems such as the relationship dynamics within the families. All these factors can create tremendous pressure (Chan, 1998; Cheng, 2002; Chan et al., 1996; Yuen, 2002).

Self-esteem involves a global evaluation of the self that relates to specific role performances, e.g. achievement in academic work, and to immigrant psychological health (Campbell et al., 2000; Nesdale and Mak, 2003). Self-esteem studies in Hong Kong have been used in various disciplines, such as the exploration of self-esteem and economic stress (Shek, 2003), the link with self-esteem and school motivation (Watkins et al., 2002) and the relationship between self-esteem and social acceptance and friendship (D. Chan, 2002). Apart from being used as a measure to detect relationships with other variables, self-esteem studies have been applied to the study of acculturation. R. Chan (2002) explored the acculturation level of young new immigrants from the mainland. He found that self-esteem is the best predictor of their 'integration' position. Based on his findings, he argued that the strategy of assimilating into society was comparatively better than the situation of separating from the mainstream society. The self-esteem variable in the identification process can be a positive indicator to identify the level of integration in the immigrants. Self-esteem studies can also be of a cross-cultural nature.

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