Childhood disability, parental marital dissolution, and absent father’s involvement after marriage breakup
Kai Feng1, Laurin Bixby
1University of Pennsylvania

Despite mixed evidence, children with disabilities are portrayed as having a negative impact on their parents’ marriage and labor force participation. We problematize the implicit assumptions in prior research that children with disabilities are a burden on their parents by examining how experiences of family instability are shaped by a family’s access to resources and position within social hierarchies. Using the Child Development Supplement and the absent father components in PSID, we asked two research questions: 1) whether the negative association between raising a disabled child and marital dissolution found in previous research is mediated by parental socioeconomic status. 2) After marriage breakup, whether the relationship between absent father and children differs depending on children’s disability status. By adopting the life course perspective, we go beyond the effect of disabilities on individuals, but instead focus on the linked lives within families and the structural constraints placed upon them.