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OBJECTIVES: Millions of children and adolescents in rural China are left behind as their parents move away for work. Little is known about the impact of parental migration on their smoking and self-efficacy. This study explores the associations among parental migration, self-efficacy and smoking. METHODS: A cross-sectional study was conducted among middle school students in Liangying Township, Guangdong, China. Socio-demographic and parental migration characteristics, as well as adolescent past 30-day smoking and self-efficacy level were collected using a self-administered questionnaire. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to estimate the risk of parental migration features for smoking and self-efficacy. Hierarchical regression was fitted to examine the relationship among parental migration, self-efficacy and smoking. RESULTS: 2609 students (93.4%) participated into the study, 44% of who were with parents who had ever been or were currently migrating. Smoking prevalence was 9.7% in boys and 0.9% in girls. Paternal migration was protective for adolescent smoking, whilst maternal migration increased the risk. Both paternal and maternal migration had adverse effects on self-efficacy, a strong influencing factor for smoking. No significant relationship was found between other migration features and smoking and self-efficacy. The smoking risk of maternal migration was partly mediated by self-efficacy. There were no differences between boys and girls. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that adolescents whose mothers migrate from home to work elsewhere are at elevated risk for smoking. Improving self-efficacy may be an effective means to keep adolescents away from smoking, especially for those with maternal migration.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Adolescent, Adult, Age Factors, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Asian Continental Ancestry Group, China, Emigration and Immigration, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Prevalence, Rural Population, Self Efficacy, Sex Factors, Smoking, Socioeconomic Factors