Effects of a Parental Death on Younger Children

1. Introduction

One of the most common traumas that a child can suffer from is death of a parent. Parental death is a major risk faced by young children especially from poorer countries. Parental death affects both boys and girls. The major consequences of orphanhood on young children are disruption to their studies.

It is evident from studies that have been carried out that this problem is specific to countries with high AIDS pandemic. Studies also show that there is a relationship between the school outcomes of children in poverty and orphanhood. Case (2004) outlines two reasons why there is a relationship between the school outcomes of children on one hand and poverty and orphanhood on the other.

An orphan who lives in poor households may not control household wealth and as a result, the researcher found some degree of causation. Secondly, if death of parents is very common among the poor households, then such a condition that is based on unobserved feature like the parents` HIV status is likely to affect the educational outcome of children.

Ardington (2006), states that orphanhood negatively affects children’s’ outcome. Yamano and Jayne (2005) state that the negative outcome of orphanhood is only restricted to poor children. Adults give priority to their children in relation to the orphans regardless of whether they are living in a well off household or not.

Case and Ardington (2006) found out that the majority of the maternal orphans who lived in the same house but their mothers were still alive had a 0.2 less years of schooling, although there was no major disparity in enrollment in school. Gertler (2004) found out that 50% of school dropouts are orphans, additionally there are no gender disparities based either on the deceased parent or on the child.

2. Adverse Consequences of Parental Death on Young Children

2.1 Effects on Human Capital

In the modern world, education (human capital), exclusively relies on financial resources. This has serious implications for children with no parents. The death of a father, a mother or both implies lower accumulation of human capital for the orphaned children as they lack sponsors to finance their educational expenses (Gertler, 2004). Ainsworth and Filmer (2006) found out that the adverse consequences of parental absence on an orphan’s education are limited to specific countries.

They also warned against prescribing traditional interventions like to subsidize school fees in order to increase the level of school enrollment. Apart from educational disruptions, orphanhood adversely affects the health of children. According to Gertler (2004), it is significant for one to examine the future impacts of orphanhood. It is also very vital to examine whether orphanhood affects the child for entire life or affects the outcome of the child’s education over a short period of time.

In a study by Beegle (2007), he examined the long run consequences of orphanhood on children aged of between 6-15 years. Research shows that paternal orphanhood does not have any prolonged impacts; however, maternal orphanhood indicates that children usually have one-year lower attainment.

The impacts of paternal and maternal death on young children are premised on the child’s health, school enrollment and educational attainment of the child in comparison to adverse poverty. The effects of loosing a parent on child development depends on whether it is the father or the mother who died and when this happened and the age of the child at that time. Studies carried out with adults and children from five communities indicates that losing a parent is seen to be a major threat to the well being of the child.

Studies carried out in Indonesia at junior, secondary and primary level indicate that the rate of male child’s enrollment at school is relatively lower than the females. In developing countries, the rate of school enrollment at both levels is high among the poor and this is attributed to the compulsory learning programs established by the government. Losing a mother between the age of 8-15 years adversely affect the education outcomes as compared to when the mother is alive.

Children drop out of school because of lack of economic support from their parents. Fathers’ death may affect the schooling of children if he was the breadwinner of the family. For instance, a family where a husband is a doctor and the wife is a housewife operating no business in case the husband passed on the wife may find it difficult to raise her children’s school fees and as a result, children drop out of school.

2.2 Emotional distress

One of the most common traumas that a child can suffer is the death of a parent. Statistics for orphaned children is surprising. According to Hunter and Williamson (2000), for every ten African children below 15 years, one has lost either one or both parents. An orphaned child is deprived of love, values, nurturing, discipline and information.

Furthermore, the child undergoes serious emotional distress given that parents are the sole breadwinners in a household, their death results in a drastic reduction of incomes limiting the household`s ability to offer the basic material for the well being for the orphaned children.

2.3 Psychological Problems

Orphanhood has equally been linked to psychological problems. A survey done in Rakai district by Sengendo and Nambi (1997) indicates that the orphaned children could happily and easily remember those times when they were still in the family cared by the parents, and all the details of their parent’ death.

Majority of the children were no longer optimistic with life when it dawned on them that their parents were ill, in addition, they felt helpless and sad. For those who were adopted, majority of them felt depressed and angry. There are various emotional issues that orphaned children undergo in life with very little done at any given level to breach the gap of the emotional support created.

Children like adults are saddened by the death of their parents. However, in most cases failure to recognize the full impact because they may not fully understand the finality of death quickly. As a result, they fail to undergo through the process of grieving required to fully recover from the loss.

2.4 Social Changes

Similarly, when parents die, the children are exposed to major social changes in their lives. The changes may take various dimensions that includes for instance relocating from their upper or middle class urban home to a poor and remote relative`s home.

Since siblings are taken by different relatives or orphan homes, it means the children have to be separated; this is worsened by the fact that the orphaned children are usually divided among the relatives without regard to their specific personal needs and requirements. For the children who opt not to move with the relatives or those who have no relative to go to, it may mark the beginning of child headed households as they are forced to live on their own.

Even under rare conditions where the child is adopted by a well to do household, little or no attention is given to the orphaned child because these households will always give the orphans the last priority. This is supported by evidenced from Case and Ardingtomn (2006), who found that a child, whose mother died but stays in a family with children having their mothers, will have a 20 percent, reduced chance of completed education.

According to the Suryadarma, Pakpahan and Suryahadi (2009), these social changes can significantly affect both the psychological and physical well-being of the affected children. These changes frequently lead to stressful conditions as the child faces new constraints and demands.

2.5 Poor Educational Outcomes and Poverty

In a study by Case, Paxson and Ableidinger (2004), they found out that there is a high degree of correlation between orphanhood, children’s outcomes and poverty. This is attributed to the following factors; to begin with, orphaned children have a high probability of staying in poor households, such household can hardly afford to give them descent education, resulting in poor educational outcomes and a continuation of the poverty cycle.

The second reason is the argument that if the majority of the deceased parents are from poor households, then it is highly likely that similar but unobserved characteristics will equally affect their children. From the findings of Ardington (2006) and Case et al. (2004) orphans registered lower enrollment rates.

2.6 Lack of Parental Care

Lack of care is correlated with parental death and it is a high risk of psychopathology. This emphasis explains the long-term effects associated with the death of parents. The children feel burdened and neglected by their caretakers because of the changes in the home environment as a result of the loss of their parents. According to the study carried out children complained about the deficient care provided by their caregivers. Most of these children portrayed characteristics of acute grief.

2.7 Effects of Grief and Loss

Following the demise of their parents, children find it difficult dealing to accept the fact that their parents have died this makes most of them to be shocked. Children get emotionally disturbed and as a result, most of them lack sleep, lose appetite and are always depressed. The level at which children grief is dependent on the demise of their parents and the gender if the child as well as the relationship that the child had with both parents (surviving and the deceased).

2.8 Effects of Orphanhood on Educational Outcomes

Parental death is perceived to be among the major threats on a child`s development. These effects are different depending on whether it is the mother or the father who died and the age of the child when the parents died.

Losing a mother at the age of between 8-12 years has a negative impact on educational outcomes compared to if the mother is still alive. It is indicated that when one lose a mother, the level of enrollment is reduced by about 21% and this contributes to high levels of illiteracy for instance children cannot write and read. Death of a father has a similar outcome on the child’s education.

2.9 Effects on an Individual

Parental death affects an individual especially if one of the parents dies this is attributed to the fact that after the death of a parent, the surviving parent has to play a big role in performing his duties as a single parent as well as providing needs for the child.

The manner in which the single parent will meet his obligations will determine how the child will adapt to changes in life and his adaptation to the death of one parent. In such a case, the child will require three things to enable him cope up with the death of one of the parents: continuity, nurturing and support.

3. Effect on Health

This will estimate the results of parental death on the child’s health basing on body mass index, weight for height z- score, weight for age z-score, height for age z-score and stunting and wasting. Research indicates that children with one deceased parent are the same in terms of health status compared to those who lack parents. Additionally, reduction in the level of education and health is more likely to occur because of death of the parent.

For instance, studies carried out in Indonesia and Mexico indicates that most adults between 18 and 60 die from unexpected diseases. Higher rates of deaths in Mexico are caused by the following diseases: tumors (5.8%), diabetes (11.3%), pulmonary infections (3.6%), heart diseases (10.3%), homicide (2.3%), there is a reduction in the health of the child if the parent dies because energy, parental time and economic resources are diminished to cure the diseases.

Death of parents affects the health of the child. Young children between 0-6 months whose mothers have died suffered from malnutrition. For instance if a mother dies and had a 2 month old child ,this child is likely to suffer malnutrition because at such an age the child depends mainly on breastfeeding and the care givers may not be in a position to feed the child appropriately. Lack of proper feeding may result in malnutrition diseases.

3.1 Parental Death and School Entry

Death of a parent may decrease the levels of investments in the child’s education and school entry. Children whose parents have died are less likely to join school in comparison to the non-bereaved. Maternal death has a great negative effect to a child’s enrollment in school and compared to parental death, which has no effect.

3.2 Conclusion

Parental death has adverse effects on young children. Studies carried out indicate that paternal death has less effect on the child’s health and education in comparison to maternal death. From the studies analyzed it is clear that orphaned children undergo serious challenges ranging from educational, psychological, mental and physical health. However, several may be adopted to help protect the orphaned children.

State governments can for instance come up with policies directing towards offering the needed financial and moral support to the orphans. Programs aimed at helping the orphans are important partly because they reduce the moral hazard problems that affect majority of the anti poverty initiatives. If adequate safety nets are put in place. This analysis concludes that parental death reduces not only the health and educational outcomes but equally affects them socially and psychologically.

4. List of References

Case, A. & Ardington, C. (2006). The impact of parental death on school outcomes: longitudinal evidence from South Africa. Demography, 43, 401-420.

Case, A., Paxson, C. & Ableidinger, J. (2004). Orphans in Africa: parental death, poverty, and school enrollment. Demography, 41, 483-508.

Gertler, P., Martinez, S., Levine, D. & Bertozzi, S. (2004). Lost presence and presents: How parental death affects children. Retrieved on 15 February 2012 from: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:Uhf33ijkEQAJ:citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi%3D10.1.1.199.9927%26rep%3Drep1%26type%3Dpdf+Lost+presence+and+presents:+How+parental+death+affects+children.&hl=en&gl=ke&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESh3YfcTW9YIOZeHYANdih8u7K8EYC9-XXLfewEh7p7ookMtamwxvp2ShKnVkD9vFW8D3p8WhQVejMdy1X_OOdvz0z10FxqRjb3hro54sJiameR8YrPcUqd-GDhWfDs1Lx60a4ex&sig=AHIEtbSJhHra7-hqAea07RIL4fwaDO72OA

Hunter, S. & Williamson, J. (2000). Children on the brink 2000: updated estimates and recommendations for intervention executive summary. Washington, D.C.: USAID.

Sengendo, J. & Nambi, J (1997). The psychological effect of orphanhood: A study of orphans in Rakai district. Supplement to Health Transition Review, 7,105-124.

Suryadarma, D., Pakpahan, Y.M. & Suryahadi, A. (2009). The effects of parental death and chronic poverty on children`s education and health: Evidence from Indonesia. Retrieved on 15 February 2012 from: http://ddp-ext.worldbank.org/EdStats/IDNwp09.pdf