Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Role of Intergroup Permeability on Chinese Migrant Children's Social Integration

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Role of Intergroup Permeability on Chinese Migrant Children's Social Integration

Article excerpt

Since the 1980s, the open-door economic reforms and relaxation of migrant restrictions by the Chinese government have led to an increasing rural-to-urban migrant population in Chinese cities (Wen & Lin, 2012). Among the migration population are rural children who were brought into the city by their parents or born in urban centers, who we termed migrant children in this study. These children can be differentiated from urban children because migrant workers' children are subject to the restrictions of the Chinese "hukou" or domicile system. As such, they are not given the same rights to education or welfare that children born in the city are. Further, migrant children living in the city mostly associate with other children with rural backgrounds, and have little contact with urban children. In the 2013 National Survey on Left-Behind Children and Migrant Children, Zhuang (2013) indicated that there are 35,810,000 migrant children in China and that the number continues to grow rapidly. Compared with their migrant parents, children showed the following distinct group features due to growing up in an urban environment: long-term residency in the city, better economic conditions, better adaptability, less knowledge of rural society, and more eagerness to integrate into the city.

However, China's household registration system (hukou), which is assigned at birth and designed to control rural-urban mobility, has restricted migrant children's economic, social, and psychological integration into the host city. The ages of 6 and 15 years are vital to individual socialization, and during this time, migrant children's marginal status leads not only to inferiority in living circumstances and material conditions, but also to psychological problems, such as increased incidence of negative emotions, stronger perceptions of discrimination, a greater likelihood of identity crisis, and greater social-integration dysfunction (Song & Luo, 2014). The Survey on Charity Needs of Chinese Children was released by the China Children and Teenager Fund in October 2012 (Zhuang, 2013), and indicates that 30% of migrant children have experienced depression and being discriminated against. If social integration problems are not sufficiently resolved, unhealthy emotions might evolve into new social problems, threatening the future of the whole society when the children grow up (Liu & Fang, 2011). In conclusion, the social integration of migrant children is a vital issue not only for the personal development of this significant group, but also for the future of all cities with large populations of migrant children.

The Social Integration of Migrant Children in China

In a report by the National Health and Family Planning Commission of People's Republic of China (Zhou, 2014), it was indicated that over 92% of the migrant population is willing to integrate into the host city. Zhu (2006) stated that the social integration of the migrant population has three progressive levels, comprising economic, social, and psychological, among which psychological adaptation is the highest level and also the indication of real integration into the city. Zhang and Lei (2008) and Yang (2009) studied the following four aspects of integration: economic combination, cultural acceptance, behavioral adaptation, and identity fusion, and categorized the social integration of migrant population into five types, as follows: isolation, diversification, integration, selection, and fusion. According to social identity theory (SIT), individual behaviors are driven by in-group membership, which is the prerequisite for individual behaviors (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). For migrant groups, real integration into the new environment is based on gaining new group membership and identity. In migration studies, identity fusion is a key index of social integration, which means that the individual fully integrates into a group and gains a sense of identity along with the group membership (Bai & Xu, 2009). …

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