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Challenging household dynamics: Impact of orphanhood, parental absence, and children's living arrangements on education in South Africa
Authors: Carolyn Chuong & Don Operario
Source: Global Public Health, 7(1): 42-57; DOI: 10.1080/17441692.2011.574147
Topic(s): Education
Household headship
Country: Africa
  South Africa
Published: FEB 2012
Abstract: Abstract Public health and social-historical changes have had multiple effects on South African children and families. This study examines the association between challenging family dynamics, such as child orphan status, and educational delay, as defined by being below proper grade-for-age. Analysing the 2003/2004 South Africa Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) dataset, we estimate orphan prevalence, maternal and paternal household presence, other household characteristics, and schooling variables in a nationally representative household sample. Among 5592 children ages 8–14 in South Africa, 21% had experienced parental death, 33% did not have their mother present in the household, and 63% of the children were not living with their father. Twenty per cent were behind proper grade-for-age. A bivariate analysis shows that orphaned children experienced 35% greater odds of being behind in school (p<0.001). After adjusting for parental presence, household characteristics, and socio-demographic factors, orphan status does not remain significantly associated with being behind in school. However, maternal presence, relationship to the household head, number of children in a household, and socio-demographic characteristics each independently affect a child's likelihood of educational delay. Findings offer a more nuanced understanding of household dynamics that may protect against or exacerbate educational delays among vulnerable youth.