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The Well-Being of Youth Brought up by Parents with Disability: A Longitudinal Population-Based Study
- Author / Creator
- Hahn, Lyndsey
Background: The available research suggests that children brought up by parents with disability face a heighted risk of poorer well-being, including developmental delay, respiratory health conditions, accidents and injuries, and emotional-behavioural problems. This research is however limited, and the nature of the relationship between parental disability and child/youth well-being remains poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to obtain robust population-based data on the well-being of youth brought up by parents with disability, and to investigate potentially mediating pathways. Specifically, applying Conger and Donnellan’s (2007) theory of social causation, this study investigated pathways linking parental disability to youth well-being through economic hardship, family stress processes and investments (e.g., parent stimulation of learning, standard of living, and neighbourhood quality).
Methods: The study utilised Canadian data from Cycles 1, 4, and 8 of the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY). Children in the sample were 4-5 years of age in Cycle 1, 10-11 years of age in Cycle 4, and 18-19 years of age in Cycle 8. Structural equation modeling was employed to investigate the relationship between parental disability (identified when children were 4-5 years) and youth well-being (measured at age 18-19 years), and the mediating role of economic hardship. Parental disability was defined by parent self-report of a long-term physical condition, mental condition or a health problem that either sometimes or often reduced the amount or kind of activity they could do at home, and/or at school, and/or at work, and/or in other activities (e.g., transportation or leisure), and/or caring for children. Youth well-being was conceptualised through a multi-dimensional human rights based approach. The dimensions of well-being included in this study were health, education, social support, happiness, life satisfaction, and behaviours and risks.
Results: The sample consisted of approximately 1350 children, 15.6% had a least one parent with disability (95% CI 0.130, 0.187). Parental disability was associated with lower household income in Cycle 4 and lower equivalized income in Cycles 1 and 4. Results of structural equation modeling suggest that the relationship between parental disability and youth well-being was inconsistent. No statistically significant association was found between parental disability and youth general health, happiness/life satisfaction, and behaviours and risks. A statistically significant direct effect of parental disability on youth career education was found. Also, statistically significant indirect effects were found between parental disability and youth depression, youth education, youth literacy, and youth social support (for models containing all parent report mediating variables). Results of structural equation modeling also suggest that the relationship between parental disability and youth education, literacy and social support are mediated by economic hardship leading to reduced parental investments, with family stress processes playing a lesser role.
Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that children brought up by parents with disability generally fare well on multiple measures of well-being, by comparison with age peers. Where disparities were found, the results suggest that these may have more to do with economic hardship than parental disability per se: Children brought up by parents with disability are more likely than others to be exposed to economic hardship, and are somewhat disadvantaged as a result. Overall, the findings suggest that negative attitudes towards parents with disability based on assumed ‘parenting deficits’ have little empirical foundation. Research is now needed, ideally employing an experimental design, to investigate the benefit to children brought up by parents with disability of strategies designed to ameliorate economic hardship and bolster investments through early and middle childhood.
- Subjects / Keywords
- Graduation date
- Spring 2020
- Type of Item
- Doctor of Philosophy
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