Education Journal


2015.第43卷第2期(Vol. 43 No. 2).pp. 71–88


“Anticipation” or “Flee”: The Identity Formation of Migrant Children in Urban China

張東輝(Donghui ZHANG)





Under the urban-rural dualistic structure of contemporary China, migrants residing in urban cities retain their status of peasants by household registration. Migrant children who come to cities with their parents are inevitably confronted with identity crisis in their growing-up process. Based on case studies with four migrant children in a Beijing public school, it was found that identity formation is a fluid process. Household registration status does not prevent these migrant children from identifying as “urban residents.” Instead, these migrant children adopt different strategies in different situations to acquire positive social status and self-esteem. Specifically, children who identify themselves as urbanites anticipate joining the city through “working hard,” “using rural life as a reference point,” and “estranging themselves from their rural origin,” whereas children who identify themselves as rural people tend to highlight the strengths of rural people and to flee from the competition with their urban peers.

Keywords: migrant children; identity formation; identification; social mobility