Abstract: A Systematic Review of Parent-Child Separation Phenomenon Among Chinese Immigrants in the US: The Experience of Satellite Baby Family (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

529P A Systematic Review of Parent-Child Separation Phenomenon Among Chinese Immigrants in the US: The Experience of Satellite Baby Family

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Naishuo Sun, MSW, PhD Candidate, Fordham University, Seattle, WA
Background & Purpose

The phenomenon of parent-child separation among Chinese immigrants in the US, often referred to as 'satellite babies', endure a relatively common but under-discussed experience. Most studies emphasize the mother-child dyad, which prioritizes the Western understanding of the nuclear family concept to study the parent-child separation (Artiga & Ubri, 2017). However, a family’s unique experiences with satellite babies are seldomly to be studied. This paper performs a comprehensive analysis of satellite babies from theory, policy, research, and practice aspects to evaluate the effects of this unique phenomenon from western and Chinese cultural perspectives. Attachment theory, childcare policy, parenting program and their relationship to satellite babies are discussed specifically in this paper. Additionally, this paper aims to identify these families' specific needs and propose a culturally sensitive parenting program to assist parents who have reunified with their satellite babies.


This paper reviewed literature on satellite baby to describe the parents’ decision-making process from the aspects of cultural norms, grandparenting in Chinese culture, parents’ economic hardship and immigrant status, and childcare policy. This paper collected all available peer-reviewed articles in English, using Fordham library search engine on satellite babies to fully understand this parent-child separation phenomenon. The initial searching was done in June 2019. A total of ten papers was selected. In order to increase the rigor of the study, websites which include satellite baby news were searched again on December 2020 to provide updated information.


Our literature review suggested the potential adverse behavioral and psycho-social outcomes among parents and satellite babies, such as low self-esteem, depression, inadequate social skills, violent behaviors, and physical illness. Previous literature on attachment theory indicated that the use of parenting programs may potentially reduce the adverse effects of parent-child separation. However, such parenting programs and curriculums were traditionally created for white, two-parent families with secure finances and have been criticized for the lack of cultural sensitivity (Vesely et al., 2014). Our review suggested that it is imperative to consider the cultural competence of parenting education programs to ensure that they meet families with satellite babies’ needs.

Conclusions and Implications

Our review indicated implications for practitioners, community services, policymakers, and social work education. Social workers should deliver culturally sensitive practice for both satellite babies and their families. Community services should implement programs to meet these transnational families' needs by providing resources on those children's psychological and behavioral well-being. Policymakers should consider potential policy changes to reduce the incidence of such painful separation, including providing more affordable daycare services and encouraging economic development in the Chinese community. Social work educators should include the cultural component to their teaching activities to address the specific needs by Chinese immigrants with satellite babies.