Family consequences of children disability

Paola DiGiulio, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)
Cecilia Reynaud, Università Roma Tre
Dimiter Philipov, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)

This paper focuses on the effect of the presence of a disabled child in a family and in particular on its demographically relevant consequences in a comparative framework. The consequences on families of having a child with disabilities are manifold; they can be so strong that the lives of these families differs significantly from that of others. The birth of a baby with a disability or finding out that a child suffers from a disability can be a traumatic event for parents and can have profound effects on the entire family. Using data from Gender and Generation Surveys, and using descriptive statistics, we show that couples who rear a disabled child are more frequently unstable, more often forego their fertility intentions, more frequently suffer from economic difficulties, show more traditional gender role arrangements, are more frequently in bad health, and have lower well-being than families without disabilities. The consequences are also different for mothers and fathers: fathers of disabled children have fewer emotional exchanges, while mothers tend to suffer more in terms of social contact. Feelings of emptiness, loneliness and rejection are more typical of mothers with disabled children. After showing these results in different European countries, we will analyse more specifically the situation of Italian families with and without disabled children. In fact, Italian data are collected for all members of the family and provide a rich source of information on the family members’ well-being. This paper contributes to the existing literature by showing that comparative large-scale surveys on topics other than disability (such as the Gender and Generation surveys) can be quite a rich source of information on the family life of disabled children. (With contribution of Dimiter Philipov).

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 Presented in Session P1. Poster Session 1