Beyond Latchkey Kids

August 6, 2012

In rural China, more than 100 million migrants have left their homes to find work in the cities. By 2025, it is predicted that another 243 million will migrate. The benefit for these rural to urban migrants is increased income, access to education and a higher standard of living.

However, not all have the money to take their children with them. Some children stay behind — alone.

“Researchers estimate that at least 58 million — nearly a quarter of the nation’s children and almost a third of its rural children — are growing up without one or both of their parents, who have migrated in search of work. More than half of those were left by both parents.” Source: Rural Life in China

In the US, we call such children Latchkey Kids. In fact, Jareb Collins at Associated Content says as many as 77 percent of American youth are Latchkey Kids. If accurate, that adds up to more than 57 million American children.

In addition, in 2009, there were about 18.1 million children in the United States living in single-mother families. Source:

In the video, Xie Xiang Ling is one of those children in China that lives alone. She is twelve and tells her story to Al Jazeera.

Ling says she lives alone in rural Anhui Province.

Her parents work in the city and she takes care of herself. Sometimes her parents come home on the weekend and sometimes are gone for months.

Ling said there are too many people in the city where her parents sell fruit, tea and nuts.

When Ling visited her parents in the city, she had trouble sleeping nights because the city is so loud and there are so many cars.

Back home, Ling does her own cooking and eats fruit.

At times, she helps on her aunt’s farm and pulls the vegetables from the ground.

In school, she loves language class and math but does not like the English class since the teacher always screams at the students.

Ling wants to go to college and earn good money but her family cannot afford to send her to college.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Note: This revised and edited post first appeared December 30, 2010