The purpose of this paper is to compare loneliness between the left-behind children of migrant workers and the non-left-behind ones, and identify the most significant predictors of loneliness among the left-behind children.
Incidental sampling was performed to select 629 participants aged 11–16 from 5 schools in the rural areas of Karawang and Lombok in Indonesia. They filled in paper-and-pencil self-report inventories.
Left-behind children were significantly lonelier than their counterparts were. Emotional loneliness was more affected by parental absence compared to social loneliness. Left-behind children would be more susceptible to experience loneliness if they had more access to entertainment gadgets, experienced less support and intimacy from friends, had been left by their migrant parents more than once, were female, had low self-esteem, experienced emotional difficulties and rarely communicated with their parents.
Qualitative research was needed to provide more elaborative explanation about the findings.
Parents needed to consider the psychological cost and benefit of working abroad to their children. Governments could intervene by limiting the duration and frequency of work among the migrant workers.
Some beneficial implications to prevent and reduce loneliness among left-behind children were provided, such as by maintaining the frequency and quality of communication with the children, motivating and guiding the children to interact with their peers and spend less time on entertainment gadgets, as well as encouraging the children to engage in several positive activities to enhance their self-esteem.
This study enriched the understanding about complex relationship between parental presence and adolescents’ mental health despite the fact that adolescents seemed to be more interested in relationships with peers.