Parental phubbing and child social-emotional adjustment: A meta-analysis of studies conducted in China

Jinghui ZHANG, Chuanmei DONG, Yue JIANG, Qing ZHANG, Hui LI, Yan LI

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Parental phubbing refers to the act of parents using mobile phones in the presence of their children instead of engaging with them. With increasing smartphone use in many households, parental phubbing is a potential threat to children’s healthy development. This meta-analysis synthesized the existing evidence on the impact of parental phubbing on children’s social-emotional development to examine the effect sizes and identify the moderators. 

Methods: Following the PRISMA guidelines, we conducted a systematic search across multiple electronic databases (Web of Science, EBSCO, ProQuest, Springer, and China National Knowledge Infrastructure) from 2012 to May 2023. Our search included both English and Chinese literature, encompassing published journal articles as well as thesis. To assess the risk of bias, we utilized the Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross-Sectional Studies. Publication bias was evaluated using funnel plot interpretation and Egger’s regression intercept. 

Results: Our comprehensive search identified 42 studies with 56,275 children and 59 effect sizes. A random-effects meta-analysis revealed that parental phubbing was positively associated with children’s internalizing problems (r = 0.270; 95% CI [0.234, 0.304]) and externalizing problems (r = 0.210; 95% CI [0.154, 0.264]), while negatively correlated with children’s self-concept (r = −0.206; 95% CI [−0.244, −0.168]) and social-emotional competence (r = −0.162; 95% CI [−0.207, −0.120]). Furthermore, the parental phubbing group moderated the association between parental phubbing and internalizing problems, when both parents engage in phubbing, there is a stronger association with children’s externalizing problems compared to when only one parent is engaging in phubbing. 

Discussion: The findings of this meta-analysis provide strong evidence supporting the detrimental effects of parental phubbing on child social-emotional adjustment. Consequently, parents, researchers, and the government must collaborate to mitigate parental phubbing and promote the healthy development of children’s social-emotional abilities. Copyright © 2023 Zhang et al.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4267-4285
JournalPsychology Research and Behavior Management
Early online dateOct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


Zhang, J., Dong, C., Jiang, Y., Zhang, Q., Li, H., & Li, Y. (2023). Parental phubbing and child social-emotional adjustment: A meta-analysis of studies conducted in China. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 16, 4267-4285.


  • Internalizing problems
  • Externalizing problems
  • Social-emotional competence
  • Self-concept


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