Negative experiences in the family, such as parental death, imprisonment, or other family stresses can reduce the amount and quality of time parents spend with their children. We know from previous research that a close and supportive relationship with a parent or other competent adult is the most important protective factor for child and youth development, so what are the consequences when stress occurs in the family? Often, the mechanisms behind poor success in adulthood in the labor market, health and education can be traced back to adverse experiences in childhood, however, we know less of the mechanisms behind this development. We also need more knowledge of the protective factors that can promote positive development in children and youth who experience stress in the family.
The goal of the project is two-fold: to (i) investigate the mechanisms that influence later development among children and youth with adverse experiences and (ii) examine factors that can be protective and promote positive development in the face of family stress. We aim to investigate the importance socioeconomic status, family, and local contextual factors and the complex interplay between risk and protective factors in determining child outcomes.
We will make use of registry data, survey data, and conduct interviews with youth, parents, and teachers. This provides a unique opportunity to investigate risk and protective factors on all levels, from the importance of public institutions common for all inhabitants in the municipality to personal protective factors.
To gain an overview of the existing Nordic literature in the field, we are conducting a literature review focused on how negative experiences related to the parents are associated with the health, educational outcomes, and work life participation of their children. We will also include information on protective factors and resilience where possible.
We have started work on two articles based on register data investigating (i) the importance of parental separation for child and youth health and education outcomes and (ii) the impact of parental illness on the education of their children. We are also working on three articles based on survey data focusing on (i) the importance of family-based adverse childhood experiences for adolescent substance use, and which protective factors can moderate the association, (ii) family stress and mental health among youth, and (iii) the role of protective factors on the association between parental non-employment and mental health in adolescence.
We have started recruiting youth and young adults who have experienced parental incarceration for interviews, and some interviews have been conducted.
The project is a multidisciplinary collaboration between researchers at NORCE, KRUS, and the University of Miami and will contribute with knowledge within health economics, law, sociology, and psychology. Representatives from Mental Health Norway and the National Competence Network for Children as Next of Kin in the reference group will contribute with insights and discussions throughout the project period.
The effect of parental adverse experiences on children’s health and school outcomes is still a relatively unexplored area, although it is receiving increased attention from researchers, as new and rich longitudinal datasets become available. Adverse experiences in the family, such as parental death, imprisonment, or other family stresses can cause a significant decline in the amount and quality of time parents are able to spend with their children and may consequently lead to a significant loss of parental time/investment in children. Furthermore, it has been thoroughly documented that a close relationship with a parent or other competent adult is the most important protective factor for child and youth development, thus, circumstances that damage the function of the family are of particular importance. It is documented that the mechanisms behind poor success in adulthood in the labour market, health, and education can be traced back to adverse experiences during childhood. Although it is also well-elucidated in the literature that children of economically disadvantaged parents suffer poorer outcomes in a multitude of domains, we know less of protective factors that can contribute to child resilience in the face of family adverse experiences and stress. Understanding the consequences of the type of aforementioned disruptions, which have both psychological and material dimensions, and how they may act in tandem with socioeconomic and psychosocial risks and resources to affect functioning later in life requires rich individual and contextual data, which have not been widely available to researchers. The proposed project attempts to fill this gap. We will draw upon the literature from various disciplines including economics, public health, and psychology, proposing a novel research design to provide fresh and comprehensive insights into the inter-generational transmission/influence/effects of adverse experiences.