The aim of this project is to investigate how mothers and fathers caring for chronically ill or disabled children balance work and care, and how this extra care "burden" may influence parents' health, well-being, labour market attachment and sickness absence. The project will particularly contribute with more knowledge about how immigrant families from different countries are affected by having chronically ill or disabled children, and we will study how gender, occupation and education are associated with strategies and patterns of balancing work and care, and how this affects the parents' sickness absence. The project has a qualitative and a quantitative component. The qualitative component consists of individual and focus group interviews with parents from Pakistan, Vietnam and Poland who have chronically ill or disabled children. In the quantitative subproject we combine a number of public registries from the Norwegian labour and welfare administration (NAV) and Statistics Norway (SSB). Through these registries we can identify mothers and fathers with seriously ill or disabled children and track their labour market attachment and sickness absence over time.
Results from the quantitative subproject show that employment probabilities of parents with a chronically sick or disabled child are comparable to those of parents with a healthy child, and this result applied to both mothers and fathers. In relation to labour earnings and sickness absence, the analyses reveal that having a sick or disabled child reduces labour earnings and increases long-term sickness absence among mothers. However, fathers labour earnings are not affected by having a chronically sick or disabled child, and although their sickness absence does increase, fathers are less affected by the extra care burden than mothers. One conclusion from the present study is that mothers are more impacted by their children?s illness or disability than fathers. As such, the findings underline that the gendered division of labour becomes reinforced among parents caring for a child with extra needs.
Furthermore, our results demonstrated that sickness absence was greater among mothers caring for a child with spina bifida and cerebral palsy than among mothers of children with Down syndrome. The sickness absence of the fathers caring for a child with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and Down syndrome was similar to that of the fathers of a child without special needs.
Moreover, results from the qualitative subproject show that while most mothers want to work part-time while continuing to care for their children, the majority experience that this is not an option. Mothers expect that employment will contribute to improve their quality of life and health, their financial situation and their self-esteem, as well as integration into the society. Immigrant parents of children with complex health needs experience specific health and quality of life challenges. They described the burden of dealing with their child?s needs and special care, which affects their sleep and physical and mental health. Single mothers are found to be particularly vulnerable. Mothers were the primary caregivers and reported more health problems than fathers. The lack of respite care, social networks and support impacted maternal health. Immigrant parents also struggle to access resources for their child with complex health needs.
The qualitative sub-project shows how immigrant families with children with special needs manage to cope with everyday life. The strategies they used are both problem-oriented and emotional oriented. The consequences these strategies have for sick leave and labor participation will be analyses. Furthermore we explore the parents ?of trust in the welfare services and consequences this may have for their inclusion in the society.
The purpose of this project is to examine how parents who care for disabled or chronically ill children allocate their time at home and in the labour market, and how this additional burden may influence parents' labour market participation and sickness ab sence. We will focus on how this manifests itself in different families with respect to socioeconomic status (educational level, occupation and income) and immigrant origin. Moreover, we will examine if the effects of this extra care giving burden differ for mothers and fathers, and how gender differences vary according to immigrant background and socioeconomic status.
Research shows that mothers with chronically ill children are less likely to work compared with mothers of healthy children, but that t his is particularly the case for lower income and minority families. Some immigrant groups in Norway have particularly low employment among women. Those immigrants that are employed are, along with low income families, more likely to be working in unskill ed jobs, which for several reasons may influence their ability to care for their disabled or chronically ill child. Conflicts between work and family obligations may be more pronounced because this type of work often does not allow for flexibility and/or regular absences.
The proposed project will be divided into a quantitative and a qualitative subproject. The two subprojects will be interlinked and inform one another throughout the project period. One of the greatest advantages of this multi-method pr oject will be our ability to develop new theoretical insights. Patterns and connections that we discover in our qualitative study will inform our quantitative study, and we can develop and test new hypotheses as the project progresses. Likewise, the relat ionships that we find in our quantitative study can be further explored and explained through the qualitative interviews.