Overseas labour migration of parents: Health of their left-behind adolescent children in the Philippines
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Migratory separation from parents is a common situation for youth in the Philippines since many parents work abroad as Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) to improve the financial situation of their remaining-behind families. The absence of a parent could be a main source of stress for adolescents and stressful life events are known to have severe impact on physical health. The aim of the study was to examine differences in physical health between adolescents who have a parent working overseas and adolescents whose both parents live at home, based on the cognitive stress model of Lazarus and Folkman (1984). A questionnaire study was carried out among high school-attending adolescents (N=200) in a rural area of the Philippines. Adolescents from the OFW group reported to miss their absent parent a lot and reported more emotional loneliness and worse physical health outcomes compared to the non-OFW group. When mothers are absent, the poorest health outcomes were reported. Socioeconomic status did not relate to health. Adolescents from OFW-parents who felt more emotional lonely and more often used avoidant coping strategies reported poorer health. The poorer health outcomes among the adolescents with a parent abroad could be interpreted within Lazarus’ and Folkman’s stress theory. Though, caution has to be taken in the interpretation. Poor health of children could also be a reason for parents to go abroad. Cross-cultural differences in health and stress concepts and validation of the questionnaire could also play a role. The study’s implications include applied psychological, theoretical and methodological aspects.