Both qualitative and quantitative research has demonstrated that caring for a child with developmental disabilities can have significant effects on parental/caregiver employment. Studies report that caregivers may work reduced hours or take jobs with fewer responsibilities to accommodate the needs of their child. However, although caregivers of children having ASD may have been included in past research, ASD is seldom the primary focus of the research, studies are based on limited data in terms of number of respondents, or they draw from national surveys using only one or two years of data.
The purpose of the current study was to determine the pattern of employment among parents/caregivers of children with ASD in the U.S., compared to parents of children without disabilities using the results of the National Health Interview Suvey (NHIS) for the years 1998-2011. We analyze the effects of ASD on hours of work in a week and months of work in a year, and whether the effects vary by background characteristics.
The sample includes the parents of 134,997 children without disabilities and 859 children with ASD aged 3 to 17. We estimate linear regression models to investigate the impact of ASD on parents’ weekly hours of work and months of work in the previous year. Multinomial logit models are used to investigate the impact of ASD on parents’ work status (i.e., no, part-time, or full-time work) in the week before the survey, and whether they work 0, 1-11 or 12 months in the previous year. The estimates adjust for the complex survey design of the NHIS.
After controlling for numerous background characteristics, we find that relative to having a child with no disabilities, having a child with ASD lowers the number of hours of work per week by 3.78 for mothers (p < .01) but not for fathers (p > .30). In addition, having a child with ASD lowers the number of months worked in the previous year by .96 months for mothers (p < .01) and .61 months for fathers (p < .01). Having a child with ASD also increases the probability of not working at all in the week before the survey by .10 for mothers (p < .01) but not for fathers (p > .30), and increases the probability of not working in the previous year by .06 for women (p < .01) and .03 for men (p < .05). We also find evidence that the impact of having a child with ASD on parents’ work depends on whether or not a spouse is present, the parent’s education level, and the age and race of the child.
To our knowledge, this is the first research that uses a nationally representative sample to analyze the effect of ASD on both weekly hours of work and months of work in a year, and to explore whether the effect varies by background characteristics. Having a child with ASD leads to significant changes in parents’ work behavior, especially for mothers.
See more of: Epidemiology
See more of: Prevalence, Risk factors & Intervention