Winner of the 2012 Otis Dudley Duncan Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Social Demography
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other national policies are designed to ensure the greatest possible inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of American life. But as a matter of national policy we still place the lion's share of responsibility for raising children with disabilities on their families. While this strategy largely works, sociologist Dennis Hogan maintains, the reality is that family financial security, the parents' relationship, and the needs of other children in the home all can be stretched to the limit. In Family Consequences of Children's Disabilities Hogan delves inside the experiences of these families and examines the financial and emotional costs of raising a child with a disability. The book examines the challenges families of children with disabilities encounter and how these challenges impact family life.
The first comprehensive account of the families of children with disabilities, Family Consequences of Children's Disabilities employs data culled from seven national surveys and interviews with twenty-four mothers of children with disabilities, asking them questions about their family life, social supports, and how other children in the home were faring. Not surprisingly, Hogan finds that couples who are together when their child is born have a higher likelihood of divorcing than other parents do. The potential for financial insecurity contributes to this anxiety, especially as many parents must strike a careful balance between employment and caregiving. Mothers are less likely to have paid employment, and the financial burden on single parents can be devastating. One-third of children with disabilities live in single-parent households, and nearly 30 percent of families raising a child with a disability live in poverty.
Because of the high levels of stress these families incur, support networks are crucial. Grandparents are often a source of support. Siblings can also assist with personal care and, consequently, tend to develop more helpful attitudes, be more inclusive of others, and be more tolerant. But these siblings are at risk for their own health problems: they are three times more likely to experience poor health than children in homes where there is no child with a disability. Yet this book also shows that raising a child with a disability includes unexpected rewards—the families tend to be closer, and they engage in more shared activities such as games, television, and meals.
Family Consequences of Children's Disabilities offers access to a world many never see or prefer to ignore. The book provides vital information on effective treatment, rehabilitation, and enablement to medical professionals, educators, social workers, and lawmakers. This compelling book demonstrates that every mirror has two faces: raising a child with a disability can be difficult, but it can also offer expanded understanding.
DENNIS HOGAN is Robert E. Turner Distinguished Professor of Population Studies at Brown University.
A Volume in the American Sociological Association's Rose Series in Sociology