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SOCIAL BEHAVIOR AND PERSONALITY, 2014, 42(10), 1585-1602

Society for Personality Research


http://dx.doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2014.42.10.1585

MEASURING THE SENSE OF SECURITY OF CHILDREN


LEFT BEHIND IN CHINA
CHUANJING LIAO
Southwest University and Wenzhou University
YU HU
Wenzhou University
JINFU ZHANG
Southwest University
Our primary purpose in this study was to determine the structure of sense of security of
children left behind in China, and to develop and validate a suitable measure for this.
Participants were 1,836 pupils at rural Chinese schools, 100 of whom completed open surveys
and semistructured interviews, 289 of whom completed the preliminary survey, and 1,447
of whom completed the final survey. An exploratory factor analysis resulted in a 5-factor
solution, comprising 26 items that explained 56.08% of the variance. A confirmatory factor
analysis replicated the initial factor structure, indicating satisfactory goodness-of-fit and
internal consistency. The reliability and validity of the resulting Questionnaire of Sense of
Security for Children Left Behind has considerable potential for use in the context of rural
China for research about children who have been left behind.
Keywords: sense of security, children left behind, scale development, scale validation, rural
locations, China.

Chuanjing Liao, The Research Institute for Education and Psychology of Southwestern Ethnic
Groups, Southwest University, and College of Teacher Education, Wenzhou University; Yu Hu,
College of Teacher Education, Wenzhou University; Jinfu Zhang, The Research Institute for
Education and Psychology of Southwestern Ethnic Groups, Southwest University.
This study was supported by the 2014 Youth Fund Projects of Humanities and Social Science
Research of Ministry of Education, Peoples Republic of China (14YJC840017), and by the 2011
Annual Public Welfare Research Project of Technology Application in Zhejiang Province, Peoples
Republic of China (2011c23117).
The authors thank Professor N. B. Allen, Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, U.S.A.,
and Dr M. Stephens, Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne, Australia.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Jinfu Zhang, The Research Institute
for Education and Psychology of Southwestern Ethnic Groups, Southwest University, Chongqing
400715, Peoples Republic of China. Email: zhangjf@swu.edu.cn

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The All-China Women Federation (2013) reported that the number of children
left behind all over China had exceeded 61 million. Parents leave these children
behind, mainly in rural areas, to find work for better salaries in cities far away
from their homes. The mental health of these children who are left behind is of
serious concern and an increasing number of researchers are paying attention
to their education and psychological development (Fan, Fang, Liu, & Liu,
2009; Fan & Sang, 2006; Zhou, Sun, Liu, & Zhou, 2005). According to some
researchers (Li, 2008; Luo, Wang, & Gao, 2009; Tang, 2009), the key factor
in this problem is that the long period of parent-child separation deprives the
children of continuing care and high-quality parenting, which tends to make their
sense of security increasingly fragile (Cong & An, 2004).
Researchers have revealed that both temporary and permanent parent-child
separation will seriously affect the development of children (Bowlby, 2008;
Lahaie, Hayes, Piper, & Heymann, 2009; McKinney & Renk, 2011; Rutter,
1971). According to Bowlby (2008), an individuals sense of security is directly
influenced by his or her life experiences and domestic upbringing at an early age.
Evidence supports the adverse effects on a childs sense of security brought about
by long-term isolation, a shortage of communication, and emotional degeneration
in the parent-child sphere (Bowlby, 1982; Schludermann & Schludermann, 1970).
Deprivation of parent-child communication and disruption of attachment are
likely to affect childrens growth. Loss of a sense of security appears, therefore,
to have a strongly negative influence on childrens psychological development.
Sense of Security

As Maslow, Hirsh, Stein, and Honigmann (1945) pointed out, a sense of


security is a basic human need and the premise of each persons psychological
health. Feeling secure is known to be associated with numerous positive
outcomes, including personal factors, such as self-esteem and emotional
regulation, and relational factors, such as greater relationship satisfaction and
stability (Mikulincer, Shaver, & Rom, 2011). According to Bowlby (1982), a
child develops a stable sense of attachment or security only in the context of
effective parental care and support, and Bowlby views the formation of this
attachment as the foundation of optimal development. Bowlby presumes the
function of the biological attachment system, especially during infancy and early
childhood, as being the protection of the individual from danger by assuring that
he or she maintains proximity to caring and supportive others.
Erickson (1968) suggested that childrens sense of security is first established
during the initial process of trusting the world. Furthermore, Canterberry (2011)
believes that sense of security is a spiritual resource that can advance peoples
ability to communicate and response to stimulation, thus creating a social support
system and resultant happiness. For individuals, possessing a sense of security

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means protecting them from physical and mental harm, and gaining stability in a
world of pandemonium (Maslow et al., 1945). Sense of security is important for
childrens maturity, mental health, and socialization (Maslow & Hoffman, 1996).
These findings highlight the importance of an individuals sense of security in
relation to the way in which the individual connects with his or her environment.
How, then, is this sense of security to be structured?
Although a human beings sense of security has a close relationship with
attachment, these two behavioral systems are quite different. Bowlby (1982)
defined attachment as an emotional bond, as well as a behavioral system
operating with the goal of providing the infant with a sense of security.
Attachment is mediated by states of emotion and interacts with other behavioral
systems, such as exploration and fear. As Smith and Pederson (1988) pointed
out, a sensitive mother is aware of her infants cues, interprets them correctly,
and responds promptly and appropriately. The contingent and appropriate
responsiveness from the mother produces in the infant a sense of control over
his or her environment, thus facilitating a secure attachment to the mother
(Maccoby, 1980). A secure attachment, in turn, promotes the infants willingness
to explore his or her environment (Sroufe, Waters, & Matas, 1974). Security of
attachment, therefore, affects the development of social, emotional, and cognitive
competence (Ainsworth, Bell, & Stayton, 1974; Maccoby, 1980). Thus, we
concluded that both attachment behavior and its consequent competencies are
products of interpersonal relations between an infant and his or her significant
attachment figure, usually the mother. Therefore, the level of sense of security
is also closely related to the attachment experience in the individuals early life.
In the current study, it is important to note that the children left behind were
typically with their parent for the first three years of childhood. Although most of
the children left behind have lacked close parentchild interactions during some
stages of their childhood, it would be incorrect to identify their situation with
those of infants who have been totally deprived of significant attachment figures.
Research is, therefore, needed to explore the characteristics and consequence of
the specific experience of children left behind in China.
Based on attachment theory, a sense of security is defined as the assessment
made by children in regard to the degree of response and help received from a
significant attachment figure (Bowlby, 1982; Mikulincer et al., 2011; Van Ryzin
& Leve, 2012). Jacobson (1991) considered a sense of security as peoples basic
perception of the possibility of threat and menace in real life, and their propensity
to react to perceived dangers in their environment. Fallon, Wilcox, and Ainsworth
(2005) clarified the reaction process as command and self-efficacy in regard to
possible risks in life. As explained in attachment theory, parental behavior plays
a central role in the development and maintenance of an infants security of
attachment (Ainsworth et al., 1974; Maccoby, 1980). Thus, the development

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of childrens self-efficacy and command relates to the family environment in


every way. In the family environment, successfully getting close to attachment
objects and receiving a sense of security are important factors in the promotion
and maintenance of mental health as a mature individual and in the formation of
close interpersonal relationships (Bowlby, 1982). In the context of the current
study, we defined the sense of security of children who were left behind as
follows: the assessment and confirmation by the child of a sense of competence
and control when encountering and assessing risks and stresses from outside. It is
an individuals inner evaluation about self, family, interpersonal communication,
and stressful events.
Measuring the Sense of Security

Maslow and colleagues (1945) assigned precise definitions to the subaspects or


subsyndromes of the larger concept of sense of security. People with a high level
of sense of security might have a feeling of being liked or loved, of acceptance, or
of being looked upon with warmth. They might also have a feeling of belonging,
of friendliness with, and trust in, others, of being at home in the world, of
having a place in the group, and a perception of the world and life as pleasant,
warm, friendly, and benevolent. They might feel safe, rarely feel threatened or
in danger, experience little hostility, be tolerant of, and express easy affection
for, others. They might appear generally optimistic. On the contrary, people with
a low level of sense of security might feel rejected, unloved, be treated coldly
and without affection, have a feeling of isolation, ostracism, loneliness, and also
have a perception of the world and life as dangerous, threatening, dark, hostile,
or challenging.
Maslow and colleagues (1945) developed a measure of the structure of the
sense of security in the Security-Insecurity Questionnaire. This measure failed
to become popular in China because it was developed very early on and because
of the many items it contains. Many scholars have since explored Maslows
structure of the sense of security (in relation to research in China see e.g., Li,
2008; Tang, 2009). However, the structure of the sense of security is still not
clearly defined and existing research does not reflect Maslows inherent key
point of the sense of security. None of the previous researchers has discussed the
structure of a sense of security on the basis of theories of attachment.
Who are the Children Left Behind?

Children left behind comprise a specific population in China that has recently
emerged in one of the great shifting periods of Chinese society. With their parents
absent, these children tend to be deficient in parental care, support, and education.
Lacking stable parental attention, the children left behind tend to lose their sense

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of security (Young, Lennie, & Minnis, 2011) and, thus, a variety of symptoms
may be expected to occur, ranging from anxiety, depression, and behavior
problems, to social adjustment disorders. The experiences of these children in
growing up, and their unusual living environment are thought to render them
emotionally distinct from other Chinese children. The question remains as to
whether or not existing tools developed for the purpose of measuring a sense of
security and its structure fit these Chinese children who have been left behind.
Scholars have defined the children left behind as children aged between 1 year
to 17 years, who have one or both of their parents working and living away from
home in the city for at least half of the year. When their parents are away, the
children continue to live in the rural area where their parents have their home,
usually with their grandparents or other relatives (Fan et al., 2009; Luo et al.,
2009; Tang, 2009; Zhao & Liu, 2010). The situation of the Chinese children left
behind who were the subject of our study is significantly different from that of
children living in broken or separated families in the Western cultural context,
in that the Chinese parents are separated from their children only because they
want to improve the living conditions for their family, not because of marital
relationship problems. For those children left behind who are cared for by their
grandparents, their living location does not dramatically change.
Purpose of the Study

Our main purpose in this study was to determine the structure of the sense
of security of Chinese children left behind, and to develop a valid and reliable
measure of this. We therefore hypothesized that the sense of security of children
left behind will have a multidimensional structure.
Method
Participants

In this study, conducted with 1,836 children left behind who were pupils
at rural schools, 100 of them completed the open survey and semistructured
interview, 289 took part in the preliminary survey, and 1,447 completed the final
survey. The distribution of the children is shown in Table 1.
We selected children left behind who were aged from 10 years to 16 years as
the respondents to complete our survey, because children in this age group can
read, understand, and compose answers to the items independently. The children
who were selected were identified by their class teacher as having had one or
both of their parents move away for work.

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Table 1. Distribution of Respondents


Open survey
(n = 80)

Semistructured
interview
(n = 20)

Preliminary
survey
(n = 289)

Final
survey
(n = 1447)

Gender

Boys
Girls

39
41

9
11

166
119

713
712

Grade

5
6
7
8

20
20
20
20

5
5
5
5

83
68
60
68

376
357
347
337

Both parents away


Only father away
Only mother away

51
24
5

12
6
2

182
69
24

1009
300
75

Note. Data from respondent children that had missing values are not included in the table results.

Ethical Considerations

Because all of the participants in our research were under the age of 18 years,
we needed to address ethical considerations. We obtained informed consent from
parents or guardians as well as consent from the children themselves after we had
explained to them the purpose and method of this study. In addition, we assured
the children that their responses would be confidential and that their identities
would not be revealed.
Procedure
Collection of raw data. We obtained information based on the extant literature,

our open survey, and semistructured interviews (Bowlby, 2008; Cong & An,
2004; Li, 2008; Maslow et al., 1945; Tang, 2009; Zhao et al., 2010) and classified
and analyzed raw data using six categories in line with the definitions assigned by
Maslow and colleagues to explicate the sense of security of children left behind.
The first category referred to the childrens feeling of self-efficacy, such as
their determination to make an attempt to do a task, their confidence, their
strength of will against adversity, their command in controlling situations, their
response to making mistakes, their inner peace, their competence, their ability
to be accepted, their sense of self-sufficiency, and their feelings of being alone.
The second category dealt with feelings about interpersonal relationships, such
as making friends, dealing with adverse remarks made by others, needing to be
cared about or accompanied by friends, hoping for help, and feelings of isolation.
The third category concerned their feelings about their attachment disruption,
concerns for their security, for their family, and their apprehensions about health
and work. The fourth related to feelings generated by dealing with strangers or
unfamiliar situations, making adverse judgments of other peoples characters, and

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their fears and sensitivity when talking with friends. The fifth category related
to their feelings regarding academic competence, accepting criticism, learning
anxiety, and academic problems. The sixth category focused on their awareness
of, and response to, emergencies, such as emergency awareness, collision
avoidance, emergency response, and emergency treatment. These six categories
of sense of security of children left behind covered the aspects of their education
and learning, life, interpersonal communication, self-cognition, emotion, and
emotional experiences and provided us with an operational definition of children
left behind for use in our study.
Preliminary survey. Based on the six categories we had established, we
composed a preliminary six-factor survey to explore the childrens interpersonal
sensitivity, anxiety about loss, self-helplessness, fear of strangers, fragility in
situations of stress, and anxiety about schoolwork. According to the collected
information and the preset dimensions, we made adjustments and modifications
to wording and expression and obtained 120 items. We invited 10 professionals
with doctorates and other postgraduates in psychology to proofread and assess
our items and to make recommendations. Finally, we reached agreement on 109
items.
Final survey. Our main purpose in this study was to develop a scale that
we named the Questionnaire of Sense of Security for Children Left Behind
(QSSCLB). We randomly selected 1,447 children left behind who were pupils
at rural primary and secondary schools in 10 provinces of China, including
Chongqing, Sichuan, and Hubei, to respond to this questionnaire. Responses
were rated on a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 = strongly agree to 5 =
strongly disagree, to reflect the childs level of sense of security. The higher the
score, the stronger is the sense of security.
Measures

We selected four scales (or factors) to test the criteria-related validity of our
questionnaire.
Security Questionnaire (SQ). The SQ is a self-rated scale compiled by Cong
and An (2004), that contains 16 items relating to personal security and the sense
of control. Responses are rated on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = strongly
agree to 5 = strongly disagree. The higher the score, the stronger the sense of
security. Cronbachs coefficients of the two factors and the whole scale are
.747, .720, and .79 respectively. In this study, the Cronbachs coefficients were
.710, .795, and .852 respectively. After we had conducted confirmatory factor
analysis (CFA) on the structure of the SQ, the results showed that the overall
fit was good according calculation of root mean square error of approximation
(RMSEA), goodness-of-fit index (GFI), adjusted goodness-of-fit index (AGFI),
incremental fit index (IFI), Tucker-Lewis index (TLI), and comparative fit index

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LEFT-BEHIND CHILDRENS SENSE OF SECURITY

(CFI) and represented an ideal criterion-related validity as follows: 2/df = 1.715,


RMSEA = .066, GFI = .886, AGFI = .849, IFI = .881, TLI = .858, CFI = .878.
Childrens Loneliness Scale (CLS). The CLS, developed by Asher, Hymel,
and Renshaw (1984), is designed to assess childrens loneliness, social adaptation,
and nonadaptation, with a 5-point Likert method of scoring rated as for the SQ.
The higher the score, the stronger the sense of loneliness and dissatisfaction with
society (Wang, Wang, & Ma, 1999). The Cronbachs coefficient of this scale is
.90 and in this study was .873. After CFA on the structure of the CLS, the results
showed that the overall fit was good and represented an ideal criterion-related
validity (2/df = 4.715, RMSEA = .076, GFI = .867, AGFI = .826, IFI = .828,
TLI = .800, CFI = .827).
Symptom Checklist 90 (SCL-90). The SCL-90, compiled by Derogatis and
Savitz (2000), includes a wide range of psychotic and psychological symptoms
divided across 10 dimensions. It has a 5-point Likert method of scoring, with
alternatives ranging from 1 = none to 5 = extremely serious, with higher scores
indicating more severe psychological symptoms (Wang et al., 1999). We selected
the dimensions of interpersonal sensitivity and photic anxiety as correlative
criteria. There were nine and seven items, respectively, for these dimensions
and in our study their Cronbachs coefficients were .803 and .77, respectively,
which meets the criterion for validity.
State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). The STAI, compiled by Spielberger,
Gorsuch, and Lushene (1970), can be used to differentiate between the emotional
state of anxiety and personality anxiety and is used for research purposes and
clinical practice. The questionnaire has 40 items, with responses rated on a
4-point scale ranging from 1 = very rarely to 4 = almost always to evaluate the
individuals subjective feelings (Wang et al., 1999). The test-retest reliability of
the two factors was .88 and .90, respectively and the Cronbach coefficients in
this study were .850 and .822, representing an optimum level of criterion-related
validity.
Procedure for Measuring

The children completed the self-report measures in their classrooms.


Participation was voluntary and, prior to completing the measures, we explained
the purpose of our study and obtained informed consent from all participants.
After the test, we sent participants a small gift to show our gratitude. The children
were encouraged to keep their responses confidential and not to talk with
classmates about them. It took about 30 minutes for the children to complete the
various measures. In order to obtain test-retest reliability, we selected 45 children
left behind who were pupils at primary schools in rural mountainous areas of
Zhejiang Province and retested them after three weeks for a second measurement.

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Data Processing

We analyzed the statistics using SPSS version 20.0 and AMOS version 20.0.
Results
Exploratory Factor Analysis

For the preliminary survey items we used the critical ratio method, calculating
correlations among items and total scores, commonalities, factor loadings, and
conducting reliability tests. We deleted 49 items that did not meet the criteria for
inclusion and used the remaining 60 items to constitute the formal questionnaire.
We selected a half sample (n = 723) of the completed survey forms to explore
the structure of our survey. First, we used a sample to test for appropriateness.
The result of Bartletts test of sphericity was 2 = 14264.708, df = 1275,
p < .001, showing that common factors existed between the overall correlation
matrix; further, a Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) value of .946 indicated that the
sample was suitable for factor analysis. Second, we screened the data on the basis
of the following standards: commonality of the items was below .40; items that
had cross-factors had a load value of above .40; the load value of the single-factor
items was below .45. Third, we performed principal factor analysis (PFA) and
varimax rotation in accordance with the following criteria: extracting factors with
eigenvalues greater than 1; the factors extracted can explain at least 2% of the
total variance before the rotation; factors must be in accordance with the scree
test; each factor contains at least three items; and factors are easily named. After
much iteration, 26 items finally remained and we extracted five factors.
The survey, composed of 26 items, gave a result for Bartletts test of sphericity
of 2 = 7009.772, df = 325, p < .001 and a KMO value of .921, which is very
suitable for factor analysis. Five factors explained 56.080% of the total variance
and the curve in the scree plot showed a gentle variation after the fifth factor, so
we kept five factors. The factor-loading matrix is shown in Table 2, and the scree
plot is depicted in Figure 1.
Table 2. Rotated Factor Loading Matrix of the Questionnaire of Sense of Security for Children
Left Behind
Factors
Items
V20
V22
V18
V23
V13
V26

.726
.724
.709
.630
.596
.574

.187
.271
.066
.180
.217
.025

.149
.090
.041
.103
.095
.083

.036
.061
.279
.173
.167
.260

.163
.230
.145
.025
.009
.127

Commonalities
.611
.663
.607
.470
.439
.420

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Table 2 continued
Factors
Items
V5
V3
V11
V14
V9
V15
V16
V17
V19
V7
V2
V12
V24
V6
V21
V25
V1
V4
V10
V8

.508
.086
.110
.170
.090
.275
.256
.209
.203
.072
.077
.133
.177
.185
.389
.211
.049
.108
.173
.211

.179
.748
.739
.714
.666
.565
.562
.477
.198
.130
.109
.227
.078
.150
.161
.072
.090
.182
.236
.192

.125
.159
.188
.090
.117
.145
.092
.074
.813
.803
.760
.713
.073
.027
.024
.028
.121
.092
.091
.207

.350
.132
.128
.022
.179
.006
.025
.143
.090
-.022
-.006
.133
.797
.782
.616
.556
.093
.026
.141
.145

.121
.059
.050
.201
.164
.143
.267
.297
.165
.148
.069
.116
.124
.088
.065
.159
.745
.707
.657
.536

Commonalities
.443
.614
.612
.588
.524
.436
.462
.455
.776
.689
.601
.609
.694
.676
.562
.509
.589
.554
.546
.432

Note. n = 723.
8

Eigenvalue

0
1

2 3

4 5 6

7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Component number
Figure 1. A factor scree plot image of the Questionnaire of Sense of Security for Children
Left Behind.

LEFT-BEHIND CHILDRENS SENSE OF SECURITY

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In Table 2, it can be seen that all the loadings on the items are greater than
.45. No cross loadings exist. The five-dimensional structure is clear. Five
dimensions were named as follows: Factor 1, Interpersonal Sensitivity contains
seven items and reflects the assessment of sense of affirmation of ones own
communication and of interpersonal communication, and whether or not the
individual is accepted by others; Factor 2, Anxiety About Loss, contains seven
items, reflecting the fear of losing ones feelings of having such assets as good
family economy, peace, and health; Factor 3, Fragility to Stress, contains four
items, reflecting feelings about stressful events, such as quarrels, happening
around the individual; Factor 4, Self-helplessness, contains four items, reflecting
the sense of lacking confidence in ones ability, performance, and appearance;
Factor 5, Fear of Strangers, containing four items, reflects the feelings about
strangers. A dimension of Anxiety about Schoolwork was not represented in the
factor analysis, so items relating to this were excluded.
Reliability Test

The internal consistency of the QSSCLB was shown in a Cronbachs


coefficient of .908, for interpersonal sensitivity Cronbachs was .833, for
anxiety about loss it was .834, for fragility to stress it was .827, for self-helplessness it was .780, and for fear of strangers it was .708; showing the overall
questionnaire and all its dimensions have a good internal consistency. After the
3-week interval, the test-retest reliability of the questionnaire was .821, and the
test-retest reliability of all dimensions was between .603 and .842, showing that
the questionnaire was stable across time.
Validity Test
Content validity. In this research, we confirmed the content validity of the

questionnaire by a regulatory research program. First, through analyzing existing


concepts of sense of security in China and in other cultures and countries, we
established the operational definition we used. Second, referring to existing
research (e.g., Bowlby, 2008; Cong & An, 2004; Li, 2008; Maslow et al., 1945;
Tang, 2009; Zhao et al., 2010), the interviews we conducted, and our preliminary
questionnaire, the final questionnaire consisted of factors evaluated by experts.
Third, we designed items with reference to existing measurement tools and the
real-life experiences and psychological characteristics of the children left behind
who took part in our study. The above approaches ensured that the questionnaire
reflects the sense of security of children left behind.
Construct validity. Tucker and Lewis (1973) determined that the correlation
of factors and total score of a well-constructed questionnaire is in the range
of .30.80, and the correlation of its factors should be in the range of .10.60.
The QSSCLB, with a correlation coefficient for all dimensions in the range of

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.67
.56
.75
.64

F1
.67
.63
.56

.63

.60
.59
.70

.37
F2
F5

.61

.53

.77

.60

.46

.57

.52

.61

.51

.72

V5
V13
V18
V20
V22
V23
V26
V3
V9
V11
V14
V15
V16
V17
V2
V7

F3
.66

.62

.92

.34

.64
.66

F4

.32

V12
V19
V6
V21

.59

V24
.71

.36

.55
.50

F5

V25
V1
V4

.58

V8
.65

V10

.45
.31
.56
.42
.45
.40
.31
.37
.35
.49
.37
.28
.36
.32

e1
e2
e3
e4
e5
e6
e7
e8
e9
e10
e11
e12
e13
e14

.38

e15

.54

e16

.44
.85
.41
.44
.35
.51
.31
.25
.34
.42

e17
e18
e19
e20
e21
e22
e23
e24
e25
e25

Figure 2. Confirmatory factor analysis of the five-factor model.


Note. F1 = interpersonal sensitivity, F2 = anxiety about loss, F3 = fragility to stress, F4 = selfhelplessness, F5 = fear of strangers.

Note. n = 1,447.

Determination
Social security
SQ
Loneliness
Interpersonal sensitivity
Terror
State anxiety
Trait anxiety

Anxiety about
loss
.461**
.341**
.445**
-.244**
-.346**
-.347**
-.355**
-.338**

Interpersonal
sensitivity

.680**
.589**
.699**
-.490**
-.599**
-.473**
-.541**
-.528**

.285**
.111*
.227**
-.095*
-.253**
-.212**
-.240**
-.229**

Fragility to
stress
.583**
.511**
.602**
-.413**
-.535**
-.367**
-.458**
-.464**

Selfhelplessness

.359**
.332**
.379**
-.242**
-.309**
-.339**
-.322**
-.285**

Fear of
strangers

Table 3. Results of Test of Criterion-Related Validity of the Questionnaire of Sense of Security for Children Left Behind

.684**
.541**
.678**
-.410**
-.564**
-.478**
-.531**
-.511**

Whole
questionnaire

LEFT-BEHIND CHILDRENS SENSE OF SECURITY

1597

1598

LEFT-BEHIND CHILDRENS SENSE OF SECURITY

.668.792, and a correlation coefficient of the factors in the range of .213.619,


meets the measurement requirements and, therefore, has good construct validity.
In this study, we also adopted the model of AMOS version 20.0 for the CFA
of its five-factor structure. This allowed us to carry out a CFA on the surveys
completed by the remaining 724 respondents. Results were 2/df = 2.374,
RMSEA = .044, GFI = .931, AGFI = .916, CFI = .932, NFI = .889, TLI =
.924, IFI = .933. All indices met the measurement criteria and the fit was good,
showing that the questionnaire has good construct validity. The process of CFA
of the five-factor model is shown in Figure 2.
Criterion-related validity. The results of the criterion-related validity test of
QSSCLB are presented in Table 3, which indicated that the criterion-related
validity scale of the dimensions shows a close connection with the QSSCLB
overall. To a great extent, the results explain and predict the loneliness, mental
state, and state-trait anxiety of children left behind. According to the above
analysis, the QSSCLB has high validity.
Discussion
Structure of Sense of Security of Children Left Behind

Interpersonal sensitivity is one of the key factors of insecurity of children left


behind. Nowinski (2001) described insecurity as being the result of the inborn
sensitivity of a person who is subjected to abuse, rejection, or traumatic loss.
According to the responses of our respondent group of children, the interpersonal
sensitivity of children left behind is expressed in many ways. One expression of
their interpersonal sensitivity is that our results showed that they tend to have
difficulty in handling relationships between self and society, and between self
and others. They are also likely to feel uncomfortable forging a connection with
others, and even feel defensive toward, and suspicious and jealous of, others.
Anxiety about loss involves feelings of the turmoil of life, and change to, or
breaking of, rules by an individual, and these are significant in the individual
developing a sense of insecurity, and may cause the individual to become
addicted to a sense of fear (Moore, 2010). Because they are separated from their
parents, children left behind tend to lose the most important aspect of their life,
that is, parents protection and care. This experience, which gradually permeates
their emotions, becomes a characteristic of their feeling of not being safe in a
key period of physical and mental development. Fragility to stress partly shows
a lack of ability by the children left behind to be in control of dealing with
emergencies. Dealing with a variety of stressful life events requires mental
energy. If one does not have a robust sense of security or sense of supporting
oneself, one might easily fall into a vicious circle of denial (Moore, 2010).
Another important manifestation of the sense of security is stronger self-esteem

LEFT-BEHIND CHILDRENS SENSE OF SECURITY

1599

and the need for recognition (or praise), and if one does not believe in oneself,
one might be continually melancholy (Moore, 2010). The dimension of selfhelplessness shows an individuals recognition and evaluation of the values of
self-appreciation, and acceptance. During adolescence, individuals are more
likely to be sensitive to unfamiliar conditions and outside events (Hetherington,
Bridges, & Insabella, 1998). Children who lack security often feel threatened
when in unfamiliar circumstances or when interacting with a stranger, if they
cannot obtain continual, long-term, and predictable support from their current
circumstance and contacts (Forman & Davies, 2005).
Rabbani, Abbaszadeh, Kermani, and Bonab (2013), concluded from their
research that a feeling of social security should be studied from different
dimensions, such as financial, mental, and legal. Collins and Read (1990)
confirmed that a sense of security includes factors of autonomy, anxiety, and
isolation. Compared to these definitions of security, the QSSCLB, with its five
factors, is specifically constructed based on attachment theory. As Van Ryzin
and Leve (2012) pointed out, a sense of security is significantly associated with
mother-adolescent interactions during conflict and parent- and teacher-rated
social competence. The five-factor model we constructed reflects the key points
of security in the context of children who have been left behind.
Based on the above analysis, we concluded that the structure of sense of
security for children left behind is multidimensional. The model is constructed
of five factors that we labeled as interpersonal sensitivity, anxiety about loss,
fragility to stress, self-helplessness, and fear of strangers.
A limitation to this study lies in the fact that the participants were selected by
cluster sampling, so the sample selection may not be representative of all Chinese
children who are left behind. Although we included children left behind in 10
provinces, our sample was not drawn from all the provinces of China. The title
of the questionnaire could imply a certain degree of suggestibility and items may
have revealed aspects of the test purpose. To ensure the utility of measurement,
users of this questionnaire should pay attention to its purpose, ask respondents
to answer honestly, and eliminate completed questionnaire forms with responses
that show obvious deviation.
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