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  • Sep 29 / 2016
  • 0
Education, Inequality, Race

Student achievement gaps: Public opinion on reducing disparities affecting poor and minority children

The issue: Gaps in student achievement often fit familiar patterns. Children from wealthy families generally perform better on tests than students from poorer families; white students tend to do better than black or Hispanic students.

The differences can be stark. Researchers have found a high correlation between poverty and race in America. Most black and Hispanic students attend schools where the majority of other students are black and Hispanic, according to a 2012 study in the peer-reviewed journal Education Policy Analysis Archives. These schools often have fewer resources than schools where most students are white.

Such disparities are a common topic of political discourse. But policymakers often do not ask how the public feels about the problem — even though public opinion, which shapes lawmakers’ priorities, has policy implications.

An academic study worth reading: “The Politics of Achievement Gaps: U.S. Public Opinion on Race-Based and Wealth-Based Differences in Test Scores,” published in Educational Researcher, 2016.

Study summary: Jon Valant of Tulane University and Daniel A. Newark of the University of Southern Denmark examine the American public’s political will for addressing three persistent gaps in test scores: white students do better than African-Americans, white students do better than Hispanics and wealthier students do better than poorer ones. To that end, Valant and Newark carry out a randomized experiment on a national sample of adults collected by YouGov, the polling firm.

The authors randomly assign a final sample of 1,000 respondents to answer questions about one of the three achievement gaps and then compare responses across the three groups answering questions. The authors ask how important it is to close that particular gap and how important closing the gap is compared to solving a more abstract issue in a distant school district. They also ask respondents to rank four choices that explain the gap. Finally, they ask how respondents feel about specific proposals that would cost taxpayer dollars or commit resources — such as the best teachers — to the neediest students.

Key findings:

  • 64 percent of U.S. adults say it is “essential or a high priority” to close the wealthy-poor test gap; 36 percent say the same of the gap between black students and white students; 31 percent say so for the Hispanic-white student gap.
  • Respondents are “consistently more concerned” about wealth gaps and offer greater support for proposals targeting wealth gaps than they do for gaps in achievement between white and minority students. They are also better able to explain the causes of wealth gaps. This may be because more Americans are able to imagine themselves facing poverty, but less able to empathize with another race. In response, the authors make a policy interpretation: “Race-neutral initiatives that disproportionately benefit minority children are more politically viable than initiatives that overtly favor racial or ethnic minorities.”
  • Black respondents said that closing the black-white gap is a higher priority than closing the Hispanic-white gap.
  • Respondents of all demographics are more certain when they are asked what causes the poor-wealthy gap than either of the race gaps. “This could indicate that people find the causes of the poor-wealth gap less mysterious than the causes of the black-white and Hispanic-white gaps.” Or “that they find explanations for the black-white and Hispanic-white gaps not provided in this survey more plausible.”
  • 44 percent of those commenting on both the black-white and Hispanic-white test gaps said that the gaps could not be explained by “discrimination or injustice.” About 10 percent of these groups “attributed a great deal of the gap” to “discrimination or injustice.”
  • By contrast, 21 percent commenting on the poor-wealthy gap attributed it to “discrimination or injustice.”
  • Respondents self-identifying as Democrats are significantly more likely to prioritize closing test gaps than those identifying with other parties. Hispanic and black people are more likely than white people to prioritize closing the race gaps.
  • Those who are more convinced a gap is due to “discrimination or injustice” were more likely to feel that gap should be closed.

Other helpful resources:

  • The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the U.S. Department of Education, has released multiple reports looking at achievement gaps among white students and minority students on a standardized test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP.
  • The NCES also regularly compiles reports on the demographics of public school students nationally. Here is a report updated in May 2016 that examines the race and ethnicity of students.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau offers a variety of detailed reports on student demographics, including family income levels, among preschools, public schools and private schools.
  • Stanford University’s Educational Opportunity Monitoring Project focuses on, among other things, racial and ethnic achievement gaps.
  • The College Board, which administers the SAT college-entrance exam, tracks student performance on the SAT by gender, race and ethnicity. The College Board also breaks Hispanic students into subcategories so policymakers and the public can gauge the performance of Mexican-American and Puerto Rican students as well as those from Latin America, Central America and South America.

Related research:

  • A 2015 study from scholars at Harvard University, the University of Arkansas and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs finds that black students do better in math and reading when assigned to black teachers.
  • A 2015 study in JAMA Pediatrics looks at the how poverty affects children’s brains.
  • A 2012 paper in Education Policy Analysis looks at “funding disparities and the inequitable distribution of teachers.”
  • In 2015, Educational Researcher published a paper that assessed teacher quality as a factor in closing the achievement gap.
  • Journalist’s Resource has reviewed research on how public opinion on education policies and public leaders is impacted by student test data.


Keywords: achievement gap, inequality, race, poverty, failing schools, education standards

    • Jun 02 / 2016
    • 0
    Criminal Justice, Health Care, Public Health

    The characteristics of burns among children referred for child abuse evaluations: New research

    Burns are one of the leading causes of accidental injury among children. Every day, U.S. emergency rooms treat more than 300 children under the age of 19 for burn-related injuries, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But while touching a scorching pot on the stove or spilling hot liquid can cause burns that are common childhood injuries, burns also can indicate abuse in the home.

    Being able to differentiate between an accidental burn and a deliberate one is sometimes difficult. But it is critically important for medical professionals and child protection workers to be able to recognize such signs of abuse, especially when a child is too young to communicate. The U.S. Department of Justice has reported that the majority of children who suffer intentional burns are under the age of 2.

    Researchers have tried to identify features that distinguish deliberate burns from accidental burns, including scalds. There are not, however, many published studies that attempt to describe the burns of children who have been referred to child protection workers for an investigation into possible maltreatment. A group of scholars from the United Kingdom reviewed 20 small studies – primarily case studies — involving a total of 73 children to try to identify patterns and similarities. Their 2014 published study, “Contact, Cigarette and Flame Burns in Physical Abuse: A Systematic Review,” found, among other things, that most non-scald burns were from household items such as cigarettes and irons and appeared in multiple places on children’s bodies.

    More recently, another research team sought more information about the characteristics of intentional burns. That team — six researchers from three medical schools — examined data on U.S. children aged 10 years old and younger who had been referred to one of 20 identified child protection teams between January 2010 and April 2011. Data was collected on a total of 215 children through the Examining Siblings To Recognize Abuse (ExSTRA) network. The resulting study, titled “Children with Burns Referred for Child Abuse Evaluation: Burn Characteristics and Co-existent Injuries,” was published in May 2016 in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect. 

    Among the key findings:

    • The median age of children with burns who were referred to child protection workers was 20 months. Nearly 56 percent were boys.
    • The vast majority had public insurance. Almost two-thirds were racial or ethnic minorities.
    • For about 86 percent of these children, burns were the primary reason for their referrals. Burns were secondary injuries for about 14 percent.
    • The most common burn types were scalds (52.6 percent) and contact burns (27.6 percent). The most common causative agent was hot water.
    • Burns that did not have adequate explanations – or any explanation at all — and burns that followed a history of other burns were significantly more likely to be associated with abuse than one-time burns or burns with an adequate explanation. Physical abuse was deemed likely in 70 percent of cases for which there was no explanation and in 62.5 percent of cases with an additional burn history.
    • Burns from hot water, burns sustained from being immersed in hot liquid and burns from unknown sources were more likely to be associated with abuse. In contrast, burns that were not likely to be associated with abuse were burns from hot food and beverages or a radiator or burns that resulted from touching hot objects.
    • Bilateral burns, burns of the skin’s full thickness and burns that covered 10 percent or more of a child’s body were significantly more likely to be associated with abuse.
    • Burns that coincided with other injuries were significantly more likely to be associated with abuse. Researchers deemed physical abuse likely in 88.2 percent of cases in which a bone fracture accompanied a burn.
    • About 55 percent of children with burns who were referred to child protection workers underwent a skeletal survey — a series of X-rays of all the bones in the body. The skeletal survey identified a new injury in 16 percent of those children. Skeletal surveys found new injuries in 25 percent of youngsters aged 36 months to 60 months and in 23 percent of babies 6 months old and younger.

    Related research: A 2014 study published in Pediatrics, “Income Inequality and Child Maltreatment in the United States,” considers the link between income inequality and child abuse. A 2013 study published in JAMA Pediatrics, “Violence, Crime, and Abuse Exposure in a National Sample of Children and Youth: An Update,” offers data on trends related to child abuse and childhood violence. A 2013 study in the International Journal of Public Health, “The Current Prevalence of Child Sexual Abuse Worldwide: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis,” suggests that an estimated 9 percent of girls and 3 percent of boys worldwide are the victims of forced sexual intercourse.


    Keywords: maltreatment, cigarette burns, burn pattern, children protective services, CPS, physical abuse, trauma

      • Oct 07 / 2015
      • 1
      Congress, Culture, Public Health

      Does it matter for children if their parents are married?

      From the Scholars Strategy Network, written by Kelly Musick of Cornell University and Katherine Michelmore of University of Michigan. 


      The share of births to unmarried women in the United States has almost doubled over the last 25 years, going from 22% of births in 1985 to 41% in 2010. These are not just teenagers or older women having babies on their own. Parents who are living together but not married account for much of the overall increase in births to unmarried women, especially in the last decade.

      For babies and children growing up, living with two cohabiting parents in many ways resembles living with two married parents. There are two potential earners contributing to the economics of the household and two potential care-givers. But we cannot just assume that cohabitation and marriage are the same, because couples who have a child while living together are more likely to separate at a later point than married couples who have a child. Furthermore, researchers have found that children’s wellbeing can be undermined when the living arrangements of their parents change.

      To draw meaningful conclusions about the impact of rising childbearing among cohabiting couples, we need to learn more about whether cohabiting families are becoming more or less stable over time. Our research focuses specifically on couples who have had a child together. These couples express high hopes that their relationships will last, but what actually happens and with what consequences for their children? We used nationally representative survey data from the 1990s and 2000s to examine changes in the stability of married families, cohabiting families where marriages do not happen, and cohabiting families where parents marry around the time a child arrives.

      The Changing Characteristics of Families with Children

      Our first step was to track changes in the social backgrounds of married and cohabiting mothers.

      • Less economically advantaged men and women have always been more likely to have children while cohabiting. We find that cohabiting mothers have become more likely to have attended some college, but there is still a huge college graduation divide. Just 5% of mothers cohabiting at the birth of their children are college graduates, while half of mothers married at birth have college degrees — and those unions are more likely to persist.
      • We next assessed the impact of differences in prior family experiences, such as earlier separations or having children from an earlier relationship. Did such complexities make later breakups more likely? Evidence for this proposition was weak: Although cohabiting mothers were more likely than married mothers to have previously cohabited with a partner, increases over time in prior cohabitation were almost completely offset by decreases in prior marriages. Stable or declining shares of women in current unions have a child from a previous relationship. Overall, we found only a small impact from earlier complex family situations on recent changes in the stability of parental unions.

      Change in the Stability of Families with Children

      Do parents who have been cohabiting tend to get married when their first child arrives? We looked closely at that and other moments of transition for couples at various points in their relationships.

      • In the earlier period, taking socioeconomic status into account, parents who married without ever cohabiting had substantially lower odds of separation than those who lived together first and married later. But cohabitation has recently become less likely to make eventual marital relationships unstable. Couples who live together and then get married at some point before or after their first child is born have roughly the same chances of breaking up as couples who marry without ever living together. The only sorts of cohabiting parents with visibly higher chances of breaking up are those who never marry.
      • Our finding that cohabitation is no longer significantly associated with instability as long as marriage follows either before or after the birth of a child fits what any observer of American society is bound to notice: the boundaries between marriage and living together are blurring and there is less social pressure for couples to marry. Our data suggest that many couples may be planning to marry and have children as their mutual commitment grows, without worrying very much about which comes first.
      • Our finding that persistent cohabitation not followed by marriage remains unstable for parents and children, however, points in a different direction. It fits more closely with the picture of a society in which marriage is increasingly a privilege enjoyed by better-off people, while cohabitation is a second-best, less stable family situation, much more prevalent among the economically disadvantaged. About 30% of couples who never marry separate within five years, twice the proportion of breakup among the married.

      Our data account for family background and other indicators of socioeconomic status, but we do not know about the quality of relationships. Qualitative studies have shown that many disadvantaged women have high expectations for marriage, but end up with children outside of marriage in relationships strained by poverty, infidelity, and substance use problems.


      Our research sheds light on the evolution of cohabitation and clears up misunderstandings perpetuated in previous studies done at snapshot moments. By looking closely at changes in parents’ unions around the time of childbirth, we found that a period of cohabitation no longer predicts more breakups, as long as couples get married at some point before or after a child is born. This is good news for the children of couples who have cohabited before marriage. But much still remains to be learned about persistent family instability when parents never marry at all.

      Related research: Read more in Kelly Musick, Katherine Michelmore, “Change in the Stability of Marital and Cohabiting Unions Following the Birth of a Child.” Demography, 2015.


      The authors are members of the Scholars Strategy Network, where this post originally appeared.

      Keywords: unmarried parents, unwed mothers, illegitimate child, family stability, divorce, cohabitation, birth control, family planning, poverty

        • Jul 25 / 2015
        • 0
        Gender, Public Health

        Effects of same-sex parents on children’s adult outcomes: Reviewing a controversial study

        How life outcomes for children with same-sex parents might differ from those raised in traditional unions has been the subject of a large body of academic research. In advance of the Supreme Court’s June 2015 ruling on same-sex marriage, the American Sociological Association prepared an amicus brief that reviewed prior studies on the subject.

        In the brief the ASA researchers wrote:

        We conclude that there is a clear consensus in the social science literature indicating that American children living within same-sex parent households fare just as well as those children residing within different-sex parent households over a wide array of well-being measures: academic performance, cognitive development, social development, psychological health, early sexual activity, and substance abuse. Our assessment of the literature is based on credible and methodologically sound studies that compare well-being outcomes of children residing within same-sex and different-sex parent families. Differences that exist in child well-being are largely due to socioeconomic circumstances and family stability.

        A 2012 study by Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin, included in the ASA’s literature review, was based on a large, nationally representative random sample of young adults from the New Family Structures Study. A total of 15,058 individuals between 18 and 39 were contacted and screened, and 2,988 were given full surveys. Based on analysis of the survey information, the study concluded that the NFSS “clearly reveals that children appear most apt to succeed well as adults — on multiple counts and across a variety of domains — when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day.” When it was released, the U.T. Austin study received significant support and criticism, even as its methods and conclusions were drawn into question by a large number of sociological researchers.

        In a 2015 study published in the July 2015 issue of Social Science Research “Measurement, Methods and Divergent Patterns: Reassessing the Effects of Same-sex Parents,” Simon Cheng of the University of Connecticut and Brian Powell of Indiana University, Bloomington, re-analyzed the publicly available data from the 2012 study. The scholars examined the extent to which the differences found in the original research were attributable to the ways in which family types were defined, and to other analytical and methodological choices.

        A particular challenge involved defining and classifying family types: In the original 2012 paper, respondents were considered to be from “intact biological families” if they reported having lived with both their biological mother and biological father from birth until age 19. However, a substantial proportion of these respondents had been removed from this category because their parents were not married at the time of the interview. This potentially over-inflated the positive impact of growing up in an intact biological family, as those whose families may have been unhappy or dysfunctional were not considered to be part of this group. The authors also found that certain methodological decisions increased the number of differences between the outcomes of adult children of same-sex parents compared to adult children of intact biological families.

        Nearly 35% of the respondents classified as having been raised in same-sex families provided answers for other questions on the survey that called their data into question. Approximately one-third of the respondents who the original analyses considered to have been raised in same-sex families never lived with the lesbian or gay parent, and half never lived with the lesbian or gay parent’s partner. Of the 236 respondents classified as having been raised in a same-sex household, only 51 could be reasonably understood to have lived in a two-parent same-sex household for at least a year.

        After correcting a number of methodological issues — misclassification of data or variables, and use of inappropriate statistical tests — the authors re-ran the original analyses multiple times using different corrective methods.

        The paper’s findings include:

        • After correcting for errors, adding appropriate control variables, recoding race/ethnicity to reflect multiple (instead of two) categories, and controlling for the effects of misclassified or uncertain data, the authors found only six differences between adult children of lesbian mothers and intact biological families, and three differences between adult children of gay fathers and intact biological families.
        • Of the differences found among adult children raised by lesbian mothers, three were extremely questionable, and disappeared following the deletion of one or two extreme data points that were driving the differences. Of the remaining three differences, two were not considered to be objectively worse for either group (identifying as homosexual, and having had a same-sex relationship), leaving only one statistically significant difference between adult children raised by lesbian mothers compared to adult children raised in intact biological families.
        • Among the 51 respondents who were identified as having lived in a two-parent same-sex household for at least a year, only four significant differences were demonstrated. Of these, two were not objectively worse (identifying as homosexual and having had a same-sex relationship), and two did not take place during adulthood (receiving public assistance in childhood, and sense of safety and security growing up), and therefore cannot be reasonably considered consequences of their childhood family situation.

        “The reanalysis [of the source data] offers evidence that the empirical patterns showcased in the original Regnerus article are fragile — so fragile that they appear largely a function of these possible misclassifications and other methodological choices,” the authors state. “Our replication and reanalysis of Regnerus’s study offer a cautionary illustration of the importance of double checking and critically assessing the implications of measurement and other methodological decisions in our and others’ research.”

        Further reading: A 2015 research roundup, “Same-sex Marriage and Big Research Questions Behind the Debate,” gathers together research questions and provides links to associated resources that can help analysts and reporters go beyond the headlines.

        Keywords: parenting, LGBT, lesbian mothers, gay fathers, same-sex parents, same-sex parenting, children, family structure, sexuality

          • Jul 16 / 2015
          • 2
          Municipal, Public Health, Transportation

          Children left unattended in hot cars: Modeling vehicle and weather conditions to estimate precise dangers

          Every summer in the United States, the issue of children being left unattended in motor vehicles hits the headlines. The stories often spur outrage and confusion over how such tragedies continue to occur, despite the media attention and persistent warnings to parents about how closed car windows trap heat, rapidly increasing interior temperatures.

          The statistical patterns of child deaths related to heat stroke after being left in cars — also called “juvenile vehicular hyperthermia” — are not always easy to discern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided occasional data on the issue, but systematic data are not currently available. Over the period 2000-2001, for example, the CDC found that although child injuries in and around parked motor vehicles (more than 9,000 over this period) result more frequently from other types of accidents, the most frequent cause of child death related to stationary cars (78 over that period) was indeed heat stroke.

          Jan Null, a scientist at San Jose State University, has also been tracking such cases by aggregating news reports. He notes that, because of a lack of consistent medical categorization and record-keeping, even “efforts to track hyperthermia deaths of children in vehicles through death certificates miss perhaps as many as half of the cases.” Null estimates that 646 children in the United States have died in this fashion between 1998 and 2015, with states such as Texas, Florida and Arizona ranking high both in terms of aggregate and per capita incidents.

          There have been few, if any, attempts to model this phenomenon scientifically to determine the conditions endured in a hot car for young children over precise intervals across all seasons. A 2015 study published in the journal Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology, “Evaluating Infant Core Temperature Response in a Hot Car Using a Heat Balance Model,” seeks to fill that research gap by performing a year-round observational study in Texas on a vehicle and modeling predicted outcomes for an average 1-year-old male child.

          The experimental data were obtained from the field in Texas; the vehicle was an “enclosed white station wagon with grey interior and nontinted windows” that “was parked in the same area and east-facing orientation of an asphalt parking lot on each day of data collection.” A child was never present in the car. The researchers — Andrew J. Grundstein of the University of Georgia; Sarah V. Duzinski and Sujit S. Iyer of Dell Children’s Medical Center; David Dolinak of the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office (Tex.); and Null of San Jose State — took into account environmental variables such as air temperature, humidity, cloud cover and wind speed. All of this was used to estimate the impact on the physiology of a young child — accounting for variables such as clothing type and modeling the overall “energy budget” of the child — over four seasons.

          The authors note that existing research literature suggests that “over half (50.5 %) of heat-related vehicular fatalities in the U.S. occurred when children were simply forgotten inside the vehicle by their caregiver (often on the way to work).” They also note that it is necessary to study this scientific phenomenon under all weather conditions: “The cabin of a stationary, unventilated vehicle with full sun exposure can reach dangerously high temperatures, even in cooler weather, due to a greenhouse effect.”

          The study’s findings include:

          • Temperature readings in the car were taken from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Depending on the season, the speed with which death would have theoretically taken place varied widely, but in all cases the model suggested mortality by 2 p.m., even in the colder months.
          • When the starting temperature was 83 degrees Farenheit in August, the “model infant reached un-compensable heat within 20 minutes (by 8:20 a.m.), heat stroke within 105 minutes (by 9:45 a.m.), and demise within 125 minutes (by 10:05 a.m.).” Even in January, with a starting temperature of 35 degrees Farenheit, the model infant would reach “un-compensable heat within 140 minutes (by 10:20 a.m.), heat stroke within 315 minutes (by 1:15 p.m.), and demise within 355 minutes (by 1:55 p.m.).”
          • Overall, “in spring and summer, if undiscovered, an infant left in a heating car would reach demise before lunchtime.”

          “[T]hese findings represent a conservative estimate of an infant’s heat budget in an enclosed vehicle,” the researchers conclude. “Further, an infant could reach the thermal thresholds of un-compensable heat, heat stroke, and critical thermal maximum more quickly if they are already ill, medicated, immunocompromised, dehydrated, or overdressed for the weather conditions.”

          Keywords: children, parenting, hot cars, child safety, child abuse, infant death, unattended children, overheated cars

            • Jun 26 / 2015
            • 11

            Same-sex marriage and children’s well-being: Research roundup

            A leading issue in the same-sex marriage debate is the welfare of children raised by same-sex parents. How might a child’s general well-being be affected by these primary caregivers versus having a more traditional family?

            The question was central to the defense strategy of supporters of Michigan’s ban on gay marriage, which was challenged by a lawsuit and went to trial in March 2014. A federal judge overturned the state’s ban, but the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of Michigan and three other states to ban same-sex marriage. The issue was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26, 2015, when it ruled that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage. Before the ruling, 36 states and the District of Columbia authorized gay marriage, and the Court’s decision compels all 50 states to do so.

            The following are scholarly research papers and studies on psychosocial and educational outcomes for children raised by same-sex parents. For an overall exploration of the challenges and potential lines of criticism in this field, see “Gay & Lesbian Parenting,” a review of the research literature by the American Psychological Association.


            “Child Well-Being in Same-Sex Parent Families: Review of Research Prepared for American Sociological Association Amicus Brief”
            Manning, Wendy D.; Fettro, Marshal Neal; Lamidi, Esther. Population Research and Policy Review, August 2014, Vol. 33, Issue 4, 485-502. doi: 10.1007/s11113-014-9329-6.

            Abstract: “Recent legal cases before the Supreme Court of the United States were challenging federal definitions of marriage created by the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s voter approved Proposition 8 which limited marriage to different-sex couples only. Social science literature regarding child well-being was being used within these cases, and the American Sociological Association sought to provide a concise evaluation of the literature through an amicus curiae brief. The authors were tasked in the assistance of this legal brief by reviewing literature regarding the well-being of children raised within same-sex parent families. This article includes our assessment of the literature, focusing on those studies, reviews and books published within the past decade. We conclude that there is a clear consensus in the social science literature indicating that American children living within same-sex parent households fare just as well as those children residing within different-sex parent households over a wide array of well-being measures: academic performance, cognitive development, social development, psychological health, early sexual activity, and substance abuse. Our assessment of the literature is based on credible and methodologically sound studies that compare well-being outcomes of children residing within same-sex and different-sex parent families. Differences that exist in child well-being are largely due to socioeconomic circumstances and family stability.”


            “Promoting the Well-Being of Children Whose Parents Are Gay or Lesbian”
            2013 study from Tufts University, Boston Medical Center and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health published in Pediatrics.

            Abstract: “Extensive data available from more than 30 years of research reveal that children raised by gay and lesbian parents have demonstrated resilience with regard to social, psychological, and sexual health despite economic and legal disparities and social stigma. Many studies have demonstrated that children’s well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents. Lack of opportunity for same-gender couples to marry adds to families’ stress, which affects the health and welfare of all household members.”


            “U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-Year-Old Adolescents”
            2010 study from the University of California-San Francisco, the University of California-Los Angeles and the University of Amsterdam published in Pediatrics.

            Findings: “The 17-year-old daughters and sons of lesbian mothers were rated significantly higher in social, school/academic, and total competence and significantly lower in social problems, rule-breaking, aggressive, and externalizing problem behavior than their age-matched counterparts… Within the lesbian family sample, no Child Behavior Checklist differences were found among adolescent offspring who were conceived by known, as-yet-unknown, and permanently unknown donors or between offspring whose mothers were still together and offspring whose mothers had separated… Adolescents who have been reared in lesbian-mother families since birth demonstrate healthy psychological adjustment.”


            “Nontraditional Families and Childhood Progress Through School”
            2010 research by Stanford University published in Demography.

            Findings: “Children of same-sex couples are as likely to make normal progress through school as the children of most other family structures… the advantage of heterosexual married couples is mostly due to their higher socioeconomic status. Children of all family types (including children of same-sex couples) are far more likely to make normal progress through school than are children living in group quarters (such as orphanages and shelters).”


            “Children’s Gender Identity in Lesbian and Heterosexual Two-Parent Families”
            2009 research from the University of Amsterdam and New York State Psychiatric Institute published in Sex Roles.

            Findings: “Children in lesbian families felt less parental pressure to conform to gender stereotypes, were less likely to experience their own gender as superior and were more likely to be uncertain about future heterosexual romantic involvement. No differences were found on psychosocial adjustment. Gender typicality, gender contentedness and anticipated future heterosexual romantic involvement were significant predictors of psychosocial adjustment in both family types.”


            “Parent-Child Interaction Styles Between Gay and Lesbian Parents and Their Adopted Children”
            2007 study from Florida State University published in the Journal of GLBT Family Studies.

            Findings: “Gay and lesbian adoptive parents in this sample fell into the desirable range of the parenting scale and their children have strength levels equal to or exceeding the scale norms. Finally, various aspects of parenting style significantly predicted the adoptive parents’ view of their child’s level of care difficulty which subsequently predicted the type and level of strengths assessed within their adopted child.”


            “Meta-Analysis of Developmental Outcomes for Children of Same-Sex and Heterosexual Parents”
            2008 metastudy from Michigan State University published in the Journal of GLBT Family Studies.

            Findings: “Analyses revealed statistically significant effect size differences between groups for one of the six outcomes: parent-child relationship. Results confirm previous studies in this current body of literature, suggesting that children raised by same-sex parents fare equally well to children raised by heterosexual parents.”


            “Pychosocial Adjustment Among Children Conceived Via Donor Insemination by Lesbian and Heterosexual Mothers”
            1998 research from the University of Virgina published in Child Development.

            Findings: “Children [developed] in normal fashion, and that their adjustment was unrelated to structural variables such as parental sexual orientation or the number of parents in the household. These results held true for teacher reports as well as for parent reports. Variables associated with family interactions and processes were, however, significantly related to indices of children’s adjustment. Parents who were experiencing higher levels of parenting stress, higher levels of interparental conflict, and lower levels of love for each other had children who exhibited more behavior problems.”


            Keywords: gender, research roundup, gay issues, children, parenting, LGBT, gay issues

              • May 26 / 2015
              • 0
              Education, Gender, Inequality, Race

              Neighborhood circumstances and children’s life chances: Landmark study from Harvard

              One of the most difficult and complex questions in social science revolves around the precise ways in which geographical circumstance affects people’s life chances — the role of “neighborhood effects.” The question has been studied for decades now, with researchers struggling to disentangle the geographic variable from others that might also influence people’s life chances and outcomes. The cliché in popular discourse is that poor neighborhoods frequently function as “traps,” while better locations are sometimes a springboard to success in life. But to what extent are these notions empirically true? How much do the geographical circumstances of our upbringing affect our ability to succeed later in life?

              A landmark 2015 study by Harvard’s Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren, “The Impacts of Neighborhoods on Intergenerational Mobility: Childhood Exposure Effects and Country-Level Estimates,” provides some of the best evidence to date on this issue by analyzing anonymized U.S. tax records (over the period 1996 to 2012) from more than 5 million families. The scholars were able to analyze both tax returns (1040 forms) as well as third-party returns such as W-2 forms, and to compare the long-term results for families and their children that moved to new zip codes with families that did not move.

              The study, part of the scholarly Equality of Opportunity Project, found the following:

              • Growing up in a good neighborhood improves children’s later professional and earnings outcomes directly in proportion to the time they live there; symmetrically, children who moved to worse neighborhoods had worse outcomes as adults.
              • For children growing up in households with the lowest 25% of incomes, growing up in a better county from birth increases future income by approximately 10%. Good neighborhoods also improve outcomes for wealthier children by a similar dollar amount, but because they tend to earn more anyway, the improvement is less significant as a proportion of their future wages.
              • Dupage County, Illinois, is the best neighborhood in which to grow up among the top 100 largest counties in the U.S. Each year growing up in Dupage County (Chicago’s western suburbs) raises a child’s household income as an adult by 0.8%, adding up to a 16% advantage for a whole childhood spent there.
              • In contrast, each year spent growing up in Baltimore, one of the lowest-ranking counties, is associated with a reduction in a child’s later earnings by 0.7%, generating a total earnings penalty of around 14% for a whole childhood spent in the county.
              • Children from high- and low-income families tended to do worse growing up in urban areas, particularly those with concentrated poverty, compared with those in suburban or rural areas.
              • Areas with a larger African-American population also tended to have lower rates of upward mobility, and these neighborhood differences have worsened racial inequality across generations. The authors estimate that “roughly one-fifth of the gap in earnings between blacks and whites can be attributed to the counties in which they grow up.”
              • Neighborhood circumstances ultimately “matter more for boys than girls,” with “some counties such as Baltimore and Wayne County in Detroit producing extremely negative outcomes for boys but less so for girls.” Further, “Areas with high degrees of segregation and sprawl generate particularly negative outcomes for boys relative to girls.”
              • Geography also produces “significant gender differences related to marriage rates. For example, Northern California generates high levels of individual earnings for girls, but produces lower levels of household income because fewer children get married in their 20s.”

              Chetty and Hendren note that the best areas for social mobility tend to have lower levels of segregation by race and income, lower levels of income inequality, better schools, lower rates of violent crime, and a larger proportion of two-parent households. They conclude that “where children grow up affects their outcomes in adulthood in proportion to the time they spend in the place.… Our results highlight that it is exposure during childhood that appears to matter most, up to the early twenties — and that at least 50% of the variation in intergenerational mobility across the U.S. reflects the causal effects of childhood exposure.”

              See the New York Times’ interactive graphic based on this research data: “The Best and Worst Places to Grow Up: How Your Area Compares.”

              Related research: A corollary 2015 paper by Chetty and Hendren, along with Harvard’s Lawrence Katz, reviews the impact of the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) experiment from the 1990s, where randomly selected families living in high poverty housing projects in five U.S. cities were given the chance to move to lower-poverty neighborhoods. Unlike previous research, which found no impact of the program on earnings later in life, the study found that if children moved young enough (under 13), the program had a significant impact on their later earnings. Further, it improved their chances of going to college, and for females it improved the chance that they would not become a single parent. In contrast, children who moved later in life under the MTO program felt no such positive impacts on average.

              Keywords: children, youth, parenting

                • May 14 / 2015
                • 1
                Criminal Justice

                What children experience when mothers, fathers or both parents are incarcerated: Research brief

                From the Scholars Strategy Network, written by Allison Dwyer Emory, Cornell University


                Nearly 2.7 million American children have to cope with the incarceration of one or both of their parents, according to 2010 data from the Pew Charitable Trusts. A growing body of research informs concerned policymakers by showing the extraordinary challenges these children face compared to those whose parents are never imprisoned. Family disruption, economic losses, and greater exposure to crime, abuse, and violence — all can serve to reinforce disadvantages from one generation to the next for these unfortunate children. Because fathers are more often incarcerated than mothers, most research to date has focused on their children. But more remains to be learned to inform policymakers trying to address the special needs of children whose mothers — and perhaps both parents — end up in jail or prison.

                My co-author Sherry Zhang and I have compared the experiences in childhood and young adulthood of boys and girls who experienced one of four scenarios before their 18th birthdays — neither parent ever incarcerated; mother incarcerated; father incarcerated; or both parents incarcerated. This research allows us to describe similar and different childhood experiences in these four types of situations. We use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health — called “Add Health.” Of the children in this data who had the experience of a parent sent to prison, just over 80% endured paternal incarceration, while 12% experienced maternal incarceration and 7% had both parents sent to prison. Our findings reveal many similarities among sets of young people with one or both parents imprisoned, but some differences also underline the special needs of children with imprisoned mothers.

                Differences in family situations

                The structure of a child’s family patterns much of what he or she experiences when a parent is imprisoned. As shown in previous research, prior to incarceration women are more likely than men to report that they lived with their children. Understandably, therefore, the vast majority of children with incarcerated fathers continue to live with their mothers, while children with incarcerated mothers are more likely to reside with other family members like grandparents. Our findings using data from Add Health suggest that these differences are likely more than temporary arrangements caused by a parent’s imprisonment.

                • Although almost all adolescents with fathers in prison during their childhood years were living with mothers (80%) or with either biological parent (92%), far fewer children of imprisoned mothers were living with their mothers (54%) or with either biological parent (71%). And just small proportions of those who resided with biological parents lived with both — in sharp contrast to the vast majority of adolescents whose parents were never incarcerated.
                • Other caregivers — such as fathers, grandparents, aunts, and unrelated adults — play a more prominent role for children of incarcerated mothers than for those with imprisoned fathers. In the maternal incarceration group, 17% reported living with their father but not their mother (compared to 6% in the paternal incarceration group and 5% in the group where neither parent went to prison). In comparison to adolescents whose fathers were incarcerated during their childhood, those whose mothers were sent to jail or prison are almost three times more likely to report living with their father but not their mother, four times more likely to report living with someone other than a parent, ten times more likely to report living with a grandparent or aunt, and 13 times more likely to be living with an adoptive or foster mother.
                • Differences in family structure linger into adulthood. Although 88% of adolescents whose fathers went to jail or prison name their biological mother as the person who raised them, only 54% of those whose mothers were incarcerated name her as the one who raised them, while 36% point to other family members. However, in our data, neither maternal nor paternal incarceration is associated with the family structures formed by offspring in young adulthood.

                Similar experiences of economic hardship, abuse, and crime

                Compared to those whose parents never went to jail or prison, individuals whose parents were incarcerated are more likely to report that they experienced economic hardship and exposure to abuse, crime, and violence during their childhoods. Tellingly, these adverse experiences are largely comparable for children with either mothers or fathers in jail or prison.

                • Adolescents whose parents were ever incarcerated lived as children in households with average incomes below $33,000 — and over one-quarter of these households had trouble paying bills and two-thirds received public assistance. Reported economic hardships were greater than for households where neither parent went to jail or prison, but for households with incarcerated parents it made little difference whether the mother or father was the one imprisoned. By young adulthood, those with one or both parents incarcerated during their childhood reported more hardship and lower educational attainment, but again it made little difference whether the mother or father had gone to prison. Our data suggest that previous research findings about the adverse effects of paternal incarceration can be generalized to maternal incarceration as well.
                • Compared to those without imprisoned parents, nearly twice as many respondents who had a parent imprisoned (35% versus 17%) reported childhood physical abuse, exposure to violence in their neighborhoods or homes, and participation in incidents of delinquency — but once again, there were no significant differences between paternal and maternal incarceration.

                Taken together, these findings have important implications for future research and policy development. Most basically, similarities in the experiences of offspring of incarcerated mothers and fathers suggest that interventions already designed to deal with economic hardships and exposures to abuse, crime, and violence for children of imprisoned fathers can be adapted for those with any imprisoned parents. However, we have also learned that persistent differences in family structure — before, during, and after parental incarceration — could affect access to services, especially for children whose mothers go to prison. Even if appropriate services are available, grandparents or biological fathers who step into parenting roles may not know about them or may feel out of place in asking for help. Steps should be taken to ensure that children of imprisoned mothers do not experience extra disruption and family instability.

                Related research: Read more in “Situating the Experience of Maternal Incarceration: Childhood and Young Adult Context,” forthcoming from Sherry Zhang and Allison Dwyer Emory in Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research.

                The author is a member of the Scholars Strategy Network, where this post originally appeared.


                Keywords: criminal justice, incarceration, children, youth, parenting, prisons, research brief

                  • Jul 15 / 2014
                  • 0
                  Development, Human Rights, Immigration, U.S. Foreign Policy

                  Unaccompanied migrant children in the United States: Research roundup

                  The story of the child migrant crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico has come to national attention rather suddenly, but the underlying trends and issues have a much deeper history. Among close observers of immigration patterns, these are part of a long narrative that has been building for years.

                  For example, in 2003, Sonia Nazario of the Los Angeles Times was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her newspaper series “Enrique’s Journey,” which detailed the story of a young Honduran boy’s cross-border search for his mother who had migrated to the United States to look for work. A 2008 research report by the Vera Institute of Justice, “Unaccompanied Children in the United States: A Literature Review,” highlights the legal quandries with which immigration authorities and the courts have long grappled.

                  The current situation: Recent data

                  In July 2014, President Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion to confront the “urgent humanitarian situation” unfolding at the Texas border. As gang violence and other hardships afflict Central American countries such as Honduras — which has the highest murder rate in the world — the United States has seen a record number of young migrants anxious to leave their home countries, even if they have to do so alone. This influx of “unaccompanied minors” has added a new dimension to the heated debate over immigration reform.

                  According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the number of unauthorized Latino children caught trying to enter the United States has doubled in less than a year: between Oct. 1, 2013, and May 31, 2014, 47,017 children under 18 traveling without a parent or guardian were taken into custody. That is almost twice as high as the entire previous year, which saw 24,493 such apprehensions. Three of four of these unaccompanied children came from Central America, although Mexico remains the top source of unauthorized immigrants to the U.S. overall. (For a general overview of the immigration numbers, see a July 2014 report put together at FiveThirtyEight.)

                  Unaccompanied children at US-Mexico border (Pew)

                  Pew also notes that children 12 and under are the fastest-growing group among this population. Taking a longer historical view, the overall increase in child migrants is dramatic: The Congressional Research Service states that “total unaccompanied child apprehensions increased from about 8,000 in [fiscal year] 2008 to 52,000 in the first eight and a half months of FY2014. Since 2012, children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (Central America’s ‘northern triangle’) account for almost all of this increase.”

                  Factors driving the trend

                  Why are we seeing this surge in unaccompanied minors now, particularly from Central America? One answer seems to be crime and brutal violence, which have increased throughout the region in recent years. The initial spike in child migration came between 2008 and 2009 — rising from 8,041 to 19,668 over that period — predating any recent changes in immigration policy. But some argue that the June 2012 announcement by the Department of Homeland Security of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy has exacerbated the problem, providing further incentive for risky journeys to cross the border, although many dispute that claim.

                  This political debate over root causes has been characterized by “push” and “pull” factors — the issues that drive children out of their countries, versus the incentives that attract them to migrate to the United States. The Congressional Research Service notes that this binary framing does not account for the individual experiences of child migrants, which is typically much more complicated:

                  The analytic dichotomy between push and pull factors often blurs in actual circumstances. For example, family reunification may occur after a parent from an origin country secures employment in the United States. Yet having an employed parent in the United States may easily make a child in an origin country more susceptible to extortion or kidnapping by criminal gangs, which in turn, may motivate the child to migrate to the United States. Hence, having an employed parent in the United States ostensibly acts as a “pull” factor while the threat of violence acts as a “push” factor, but in this example, the latter would not occur without the former. Migration to another country stems not only from macro-level circumstances such as violence and economic hardship but also personal circumstances and characteristics, such as marital status and risk tolerance. Most children have multiple motives, and how those motives influence their decisions to migrate depend on a range of factors that cannot be measured easily.

                  The debate also comes down to how Central Americans perceive shifts in American law and immigration policy– perceptions that may be mostly out of the control of U.S. authorities and the realities of actual law and policy. The New York Times reported in June 2014 that families in Honduras are sensing shifts in how minors are treated by U.S. authorities. Subsequent reporting by the Times, however, also notes the strong role of gang violence. But beyond anecdotal evidence, there is little reliable, representative survey data that can pinpoint these dynamics.

                  Perhaps the best available empirical research on root causes and migrant motivations comes from the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which noted in its recent report “Children on the Run” that there has been a notable increase in the number of asylum seekers, including children, from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The report also highlights that the number of children from these countries making the journey alone has doubled each year since 2011, and the U.S. government has estimated that 60,000 children will arrive in the U.S. in the 2014 fiscal year. While reasons for migration are often complex, interviews conducted with 404 children from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico “demonstrate unequivocally that many of these displaced children face grave danger and hardship in their countries of origin.”

                  Broader research on migration motives

                  In addition to escaping violence in their home countries, children do migrate for a variety of personal, economic and social reasons. In a 2013 paper published in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, authors from El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, El Colegio de Mexico and the University of Pennsylvania assessed the impact of individual, household, community and other factors on adolescent immigrants from Mexico. Using data collected by the Mexican Migration Project, the authors compared variables for Mexicans who first migrated during teenage years with those who did so at later stages. Overall, they found that “determinants of migration operate differently during adolescence than later in the life course.” Some notable results include:

                  • Adolescents are influenced by the migration behavior in their communities and families or “migration-specific social capital characteristics” more than adults. That is, “individuals in regions with a higher prevalence of migration are more likely to take a first trip before they become adults.”
                  • Determinants for young migration appear to depend on gender. For females, labor market characteristics in the home community seem to be more important, especially the availability of formal jobs. In contrast, adolescent males appear to be more sensitive to changes in the destination (U.S.) labor market.
                  • For both males and females, staying out of the labor market can deter adoles­cents from migrating. “It is those who have already started their labor trajectories who are more likely to take a trip before age 19.”

                  For additional reports on unaccompanied minors from Central America, see sources compiled by the Women’s Refugee Council (WRC), a coalition of NGOs focused on refugee protection. Of particular relevance is an October 2012 WRC report, “Forced from Home: The Lost Boys and Girls of Central America,” which provides information based on 151 in-depth interviews with detained children. For additional information on immigration issues in general, see resources from the Immigration Policy Center, the non-partisan research and policy arm of the American Immigration Council. The organization also has a resource guide on unaccompanied children.

                  Damaging effects on children

                  There is no question that unaccompanied minors are a vulnerable population, with many becoming victims of violent crimes or sexual abuse along the journey intended to lead them away from harm. The mental strain for all migrant children is well established in the research literature: The 2011 study “Psychological Distress in Refugee Children: A Systematic Review” notes that “refugee children appear to experience high levels of psychological distress in a number of high-quality studies which employ various methods to primarily identify potential diagnoses of PTSD, depression and high levels of emotional and behavioral problems.”

                  A February 2014 report published jointly by the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) highlights some of these key dangers. In addition, research indicates that even those children who arrive with their families can suffer throughout the immigration process. In a 2010 paper, authors Kalina Brabeck (Rhode Island College) and Qingwen Xu (Boston College) explore the impact of detention and deportation on Latino immigrant children. Their results point to the fact that “parents in this study report their children are affected by parents’ wellbeing …. [H]ence, when undocumented Latino parents suffer as a result of detention and deportation, so too do their U.S.-born children.” The fact that deportation practices can have negative emotional, financial and academic consequences for these children has policy implications: “Individual efforts to help children of immigrants may be of limited effectiveness if the policies that threaten their families do not change…. It follows, then, that to act in the best interests of these children, policy makers and practitioners must address the emotional and financial toll that the threat of deportation exerts on immigrant parents.”

                  Immigration policy: The background debate

                  A May 2013 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 75% of Americans believe immigration policy is in urgent need of an overhaul, but the country remains divided on what this reform should look like. A June 2014 Gallup poll found that “fewer than one in four Americans favor increased immigration.” The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) is the legislation most directly related to immigrant minors. First introduced in 2001 by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the bill was meant to provide a path to citizenship for alien students brought to the United States as children. Since 2001, the DREAM Act has been re-introduced in Congress every year, either as amendments to other legislation or as an individual bill, but it has still failed to become a law.

                  After being unable to pass the DREAM Act, in 2012 President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy: The administration would stop deporting young, undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children. Basically, people younger than 30 who entered the United States before the age of 16, who pose no criminal or security threat, and who were successful students or served in the military can get a two-year deferral from deportation. However, while this achieved some of the tenents of the DREAM Act, it still does not provide a path to citizenship.

                  Related reading: For a brief overview and history of the legislation, see the Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder on the U.S. immigration debate. In addition, a 2013 study in Perspectives on Politics explores the impact of issue frames and word choice on perceptions of immigrants.

                  Keywords: children, youth, Hispanic, Latino

                    • Jan 13 / 2014
                    • 1
                    Africa, Development, Human Rights, Public Health

                    Orphans, abuse and the world’s most vulnerable children: Recent research

                    Few problems deserve attention more than stopping the abuse of vulnerable children, yet this area remains in great need of more reliable data. For example, UNICEF estimates that anywhere between 500 million and 1.5 billion children endure violence each year. Such uncertainty is a result of the hidden nature of much abuse, but it also suggests many countries have little idea what may be happening across their populations. Advocates for children and the media have helped advance understanding, even as experts struggle to formulate evidence-based policies. Recent attention has focused on changing international adoption policies and disputes, and the ongoing plight of AIDS orphans, but more knowledge is still required at a fundamental level.

                    For children living outside the care of biological parents, the situation is assumed to be the most dire, particularly in the developing world. Neglect, discrimination and malnutrition affect orphans more commonly than their non-orphaned peers: Research has shown such children are more likely to go to bed hungry and to be exploited (subjected to child labor) and less likely to be enrolled in school. Increasing urbanization in the developing world, growing poverty and the rising number of orphans requiring care — UNICEF estimates there are more than 150 million worldwide — exacerbate all these problems.

                    About one-third of all orphans worldwide live in sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty — despite some recent progress — persists at its most profound levels globally. Related research is often qualitative and anecdotal, focusing on limited surveys of affected communities. A 2013 study, “Child Abuse and Neglect among Orphaned Children and Youth Living in Extended Families in Sub-Saharan Africa: What Have We Learned from Qualitative Inquiry?” reviews some of the best available field studies. The researchers note that the “studies are remarkably consistent in finding orphaned children and youth vulnerable to multiple forms of maltreatment.” Overall findings include:

                    • There are “several perceived risk factors for orphan’s maltreatment: poverty, stigma, non-biological caregivers and alcohol abuse. Interventions to curtail child maltreatment will likely only be partially successful unless they are coupled with poverty-reduction and income-generating projects … and stigma-reduction campaigns.”
                    • “Tackling poverty and stigma should also help to curb maltreatment of orphans living with non-biological caregivers, as these two factors appear to underlie much of the increased vulnerability.”
                    • Throughout the studies reviewed, a wide variety of problems were reported for children, including: discrimination within their own household relative to biological children; material and educational neglect; labor exploitation; and sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

                    For the most serious forms of abuse and their prevalence, available research suggests that the reality may not always be simple. A 2013 study published in Child Abuse & Neglect, “Physical and Sexual Abuse in Orphaned Compared to Non-orphaned Children in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” analyzes the current scholarly literature, narrowly focusing on a small set of the most rigorous studies. The findings include:

                    • Researchers found non-orphan children in sub-Saharan Africa are victims of physical and sexual abuse just as often as orphaned children.
                    • According to existing quantitative data, orphans do not appear to be at higher risk of physical and sexual abuse compared with non-orphans in sub-Saharan Africa. In compiling the results, the authors included data from 10 studies in which 17,336 children (42% orphans) were involved.
                    • A major weakness in the existing data is a lack of a clear definition of abuse and the tools to adequately identify and classify it: “To design effective policy and practice responses, we need a much clearer understanding of abuse among children and youth within the region.” Additionally, most of the studies used took place in South Africa and Zimbabwe, which limits the ability to generalize the results.

                    Related research: Research continues on later-life outcomes for orphans in sub-Saharan Africa. Scholars have found that these children are more susceptible to problems such as alcoholism and HIV/AIDS, highlighting the urgency of interventions in these societies. As the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to change patterns of society in southern Africa, new research is also focusing on how different family structures are accomodating these realities. For a more global look, UNICEF provides a data and policy primer on many aspects of child protection.

                    Keywords: orphans, sub-Saharan Africa, sexual abuse, physical abuse, abuse, systematic review