Independent child migrants (ICM) are children who choose to leave home and live independently of their parents or adult guardians. The literature and society in general often portray them as victims and abandoned children. This is because research on child neglect has not paid sufficient attention to the experiences of children in especially difficult circumstances. This paper has addressed that inadequacy: it has investigated the experiences and perception of parental neglect among ICM in Ghana and the relationship between these experiences and the children’s subjective well-being (happiness). The study used a cross-sectional concurrent mixed method design with children aged 12 to 17 years. The sample for the quantitative study included 156 children, while the qualitative investigation involved 14 children. The analysis comprised ordinal logistic regression, and hybrid thematic techniques for the quantitative and qualitative studies respectively. The results indicated that the decision to migrate often emerged through familial dialog. For the children, the decision was connected to their in-depth appreciation and experiences of family poverty and well-being. Correspondingly, despite the hardships the children faced, and their understanding of what neglect is, most of them did not feel neglected. Nonetheless, the majority of the ICM were not happy about the conditions of their lives. Unhappiness was mostly associated with greater perceived parental neglect. The paper argues that social protection policies to safeguard ICM and children alike from ‘risky’ conditions must consider the broader sociocultural, economic and familial conditions that shape their lives, livelihoods, and feelings of well-being.
This article is part of the special issue of the Child Indicators Research journal, focused on child neglect.