Critically discuss the evidence underlying the claim that the deterioration of economic conditions that usually results from family disruption is the major explanation for the lower ability and achievement of children in disrupted families.
This paper considers whether, and to what extent, the deteriorated economic situations caused through family disruptions and economic deprivations are the main reasons for children’s lower competences and attainments. Firstly, the association between disrupted family and economic circumstances are considered in line with some recent economic theory.
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Secondly, the reasons why economic circumstances arising from family disruptions are identified as being the foremost predictors for lower ability and attainment of children in disrupted families. This claim is examined. In addition, issues within previous studies are then investigated. Lastly, the implications for enhancing children’s outcomes regarding this issue are also discussed.
How family disruptions are linked to deteriorated economic conditions
Due to a dramatic change of family structure in modern societies, questions about the impact of family disruptions (e.g. separation/divorce, step-parenting, remarriage) on economic conditions, measured by home ownership, income and size of the residence, have appeared to be increasingly significant. There have been a number of studies explaining the relationship between disruptions in family life and economic circumstances. Numerous longitudinal and cross sectional research reveals that disruptive events in families cause economic disadvantage (e.g. Amato, 2000; Duncan, Yeung, Brooks-Gunn and Smith, 1998).
Divorced individuals typically have greater economic deprivation than married individuals (Marks, 1996; Ross, 1995). Researchers have reported that women are likely to have more serious problems with economic consequences in comparison with men (e.g. Holden and Smock, 1991; Ross, 1995; Smock 1994) and that lone mothers are considered to be in the poorest situations after separation or divorce (Ram and Hou, 2003). For example, the longitudinal study of Bianchi, Subaiya and Kahn (1999); focusing on the gender gap in economic well-being among the couples with children after family disruptions in the United States, found that there was a 36% decline in living standard of custodial mothers, whilst noncustodial fathers experienced a 28% increase.
It can be seen that in general, mothers’ post-divorced standards of living was merely a half that of the fathers. Moreover, to compare with divorced men or married women, lone mothers tend to have more monetary problems over longer period. Amato (2000) explains this incidence that “women, compared with men, have more interrupted work histories prior to divorce, experience greater work–family conflict (due to their responsibility for children), and are more likely to experience employment and wage discrimination” (p.1277). However, the deleterious economic conditions can be relieved in step-parent families (Amato, 2000)
Why is economic deprivation from family disruptions claimed to be the major predictors for low outcomes of children?
Over the last few decades,
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