Family Structure and Children's Hyperactivity Problems: A Longitudinal Analysis

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<ul><li><p>Family Structure and Children's Hyperactivity Problems: A Longitudinal AnalysisAuthor(s): Don Kerr and Joseph H. MichalskiSource: The Canadian Journal of Sociology / Cahiers canadiens de sociologie, Vol. 32, No. 1(Winter, 2007), pp. 85-112Published by: Canadian Journal of SociologyStable URL: .Accessed: 15/06/2014 21:47</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .</p><p> .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact</p><p> .</p><p>Canadian Journal of Sociology is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to TheCanadian Journal of Sociology / Cahiers canadiens de sociologie.</p><p> </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 21:47:05 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>Family Structure and Children's Hyperactivity Problems: A Longitudinal Analysis1 </p><p>Don Kerr </p><p>Joseph H. Michalski </p><p>Abstract: The current article analyzes 1994-2000 data from the Canadian National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth to examine the relevance of family structures to trajectories of </p><p>parental reports on hyperactivity-inattention among elementary school aged children. We use a </p><p>latent growth modelling approach to compare children living in intact families, lone-parent families, stepfamilies, and families where parents divorced or separated. The results highlight the </p><p>apparent advantages to living in intact families and the slightly greater risks experienced by </p><p>children living in stepfamilies. Children in lone-parent families, while experiencing an initial disadvantage, displayed a similar trajectory on hyperactivity to children in intact families over the </p><p>1994-2000 period. With regard to the children of divorce, the current study finds little evidence </p><p>of a pre-disruption effect, as the children whose parents divorce or separate over 1994-2000 appear </p><p>initially no worse off than children whose parents stay together. </p><p>Resume: Cet article analyse les donnees 1994-2000 de l'enquete longitudinale canadienne nation </p><p>ale sur les enfants et les jeunes dans le but d'examiner la pertinence des structures familiales sur </p><p>les trajectoires de rapports parentaux sur l'hyperactivite et l'inattention chez les enfants du cours </p><p>primaire. Nous utilisons une approche de modele de croissance non detecte pour comparer les </p><p>enfants qui vivent dans des familles intactes, monoparentales, reconstituees et des familles oiu les </p><p>parents sont divorc6s our separes. Les resultats ont mis en evidence les avantages apparents de </p><p>vivre dans une famille intacte et le risque l6gerement superieur auquel sont exposes les enfants qui </p><p>vivent dans des familles reconstituees. Les enfants de familles monoparentales, bien qu'ils aient </p><p>un desavantage initial, manifestaient une trajectoire semblable en matiere d'hyeractivite que les </p><p>1. The authors would like to acknowledge the helpful feedback and suggestions of Rod Beaujot, as well as the thoughtful responses and criticisms of three anonymous Canadian Journal of </p><p>Sociology reviewers. </p><p>Canadian Journal of Sociology/Cahiers canadiens de sociologie 32(1) 2007 85 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 21:47:05 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>86 Canadian Journal of Sociology </p><p>enfants des familles intactes de la p6riode 1994-2000. En ce qui concerne les enfants de parents </p><p>divore6s, F'enquete actuelle a trouv6 tres peu d'indication d'un effet prealable a la rupture etant </p><p>donne que les enfants dont les parents ont divorce ou se sont separes pendant la periode 1994-2000 </p><p>ne semblaient pas avoir plus de problemes que les enfants dont les parents demeuraient ensemble. </p><p>Ample evidence exists to suggest that family contexts can have profound effects </p><p>on child development, including the likelihood of delinquency and various anti </p><p>social behaviours (Harper and McLanahan, 2004; Henry, Tolan, and Gorman </p><p>Smith, 2001; Wiesner and Capaldi, 2003; Wiesner and Windle, 2004). An issue </p><p>that has spawned considerable interest in recent years involves the increasing </p><p>incidence of child hyperactivity in general or attention deficit, hyperactivity </p><p>disorder (ADHD) in particular. The media have fuelled the public's perception </p><p>that children and youth have become more difficult over the years, especially </p><p>as manifested by the perceived increase in children's behavioural difficulties. </p><p>Indeed, the evidence confirms a rather substantial climb in the percentage of </p><p>children diagnosed with hyperactivity-inattention disorders in North America - a major concern to parents, educators, and the general public. Nevertheless, </p><p>despite the prevalence of these disorders, not much research exists on the extent </p><p>to which family structure and other contextual factors may contribute to the </p><p>onset and trajectory of such behavioural problems (Schmitz, 2003). The current </p><p>paper hopes, in part, to remedy this situation. </p><p>The results from the first cycle of the National Longitudinal Study of </p><p>Children and Youth (NLSCY) in 1994 indicated that a significant number of </p><p>elementary aged children in Canada could be classified as exhibiting hyperac </p><p>tive or inattentive behaviour, which was by far the most commonly observed </p><p>behavioural problem that parents reported. For example, Offord and Lipman </p><p>(1996) used the NLSCY to estimate that one in ten Canadian children displayed </p><p>this particular behavioural problem. To examine the possible impact of family </p><p>structure and contextual factors on hyperactivity, we employ latent growth </p><p>models (LGMs) as our primary analytic method given its utility in exploiting </p><p>longitudinal data and potential in identifying important predictors and correlates </p><p>of change. The use of LGMs within the latent variable structural equation </p><p>modelling framework has arguably been rather sparse among sociologists, </p><p>especially with Canadian datasets (Aber and McArdle, 1991; Duncan et al., </p><p>1999; Rogosa and Willet, 1985). Yet the method has a great deal of utility for </p><p>studying child outcomes compared to the standard autoregressive or residual </p><p>change approach, as LGMs allow for a simultaneous analysis of both "initial </p><p>status" (in 1994) and "trajectories" over time (the 1994-2000 period). By </p><p>comparing different sub-samples of children, defined through family structure, </p><p>LGMs can provide unique insights as to how such structures in combination </p><p>with other contextual factors contribute to or help offset hyperactivity </p><p>inattention difficulties over time. </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 21:47:05 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>Family Structure and Children's Hyperactivity Problems 87 </p><p>Family Structure and Child Development </p><p>The relationship between family structure and child development involves </p><p>several longstanding, complex issues, as researchers continue to debate the </p><p>relative importance of various family forms to the emotional and cognitive </p><p>development of the young (Moore et al., 2002; Waite and Gallagher, 2000). </p><p>Some limited evidence supports the idea that children in lone-parent families </p><p>and in stepfamilies are at greater risk for developing behavioural and emotional </p><p>difficulties (Lefebvre and Merrigen, 1998; Dooley et al., 1998). Similarly, </p><p>despite a substantial literature on the impact of divorce on child well-being, no </p><p>consensus exists as to the impact of marital breakdown on child development, </p><p>both over the shorter and the longer term (Hetherington, 2003; Wallerstein, </p><p>2000; Amato and Keith, 1991). Some researchers have found evidence of a </p><p>significant "disruptive effect" of divorce on child development (Popenoe, 1996), while others suggest that the available evidence provides mixed results </p><p>regarding the potential negative consequences of marital dissolution (House </p><p>knecht and Sastry, 1996).2 Hetherington and Kelly (2002) argue that most </p><p>parents and children do not suffer long-term, negative adjustment problems </p><p>following divorce and ultimately function within the "normal range" for most </p><p>psychological and behavioural indicators. </p><p>Among Canadian children, the majority continue to be raised in "intact" </p><p>families, defined here as families in which all children live with both biological </p><p>parents concurrently. In most of these families, the parents are legally married, </p><p>although childbearing within common-law relationships has increased in recent </p><p>years in Canada. Whereas clearly not all children living in intact families </p><p>demonstrate a "healthy" level of adjustment as measured by standardized scales </p><p>of well-being, much of the research over the years has confirmed the relative </p><p>advantages of children living in stable, two-parent families as compared with </p><p>lone-parent or stepfamily situations (Ram and Hou, 2003; Brown, 2004; Carlson </p><p>and Corcoran, 2001; Dawson, 1991). Yet in documenting an association bet </p><p>ween family structure and child outcomes, it is not obvious as to why children </p><p>living in non-intact families might be somewhat disadvantaged. For example, </p><p>the difficulties that parents report may not necessarily be the result of being </p><p>2. These mixed results perhaps reflect in part the distinctive samples upon which some of the </p><p>aforementioned studies have been based. For example, the Wallerstein (2000) study was based </p><p>on a selective sample of upper middle class families from Northern California, while the </p><p>Popenoe (1996) study included a large sample of African-American single mothers. A reviewer </p><p>noted that these differences are problematic to the extent that effects of race, discrimination, </p><p>and class are confounded with family structure. For the purposes of the current paper, we focus </p><p>on a large, representative sample of Canadian children, which is somewhat distinct from </p><p>American children in terms of both their demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 21:47:05 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>88 Canadian Journal of Sociology </p><p>raised in a non-intact family situation, but, more accurately, the by-product of </p><p>experiences that led to the formation of a lone-parent family or stepfamily in the </p><p>first place. </p><p>In emphasizing family structure as a crucial determinant of child well-being, </p><p>the basic idea here suggests that the presence of both biological parents matters, </p><p>i.e., that family structure has an effect independent of the many antecedent </p><p>factors that may have lead to the formation of non-intact families (Biblarz and </p><p>Gottainer, 2000; Manning and Lamb, 2003). It follows that the increased </p><p>frequency of lone parenthood should have some impact on the well-being of </p><p>children, as non-custodial parents frequently lose regular contact with their </p><p>children (Beaujot, 2000; Marcil-Gratton, 1998; Peron et al., 1999). Children </p><p>raised in lone-parent families receive, on average, less parental supervision and </p><p>especially that which might be provided by fathers (McLanahan and Sandefur, </p><p>1994; see Wiesner and Capaldi, 2003). To the extent that fathers discontinue the </p><p>investment of human and social capital in their children, the loss of regular </p><p>contact and support expectedly will be a net negative for children, except in </p><p>cases where the absent parent would have been harmful to the child (but </p><p>compare Spruijt, de Goede, and Vanervalk, 2004). It has also been suggested </p><p>that the well-being of the children will be moderated to the extent that both </p><p>parents can continue to be involved in a child's life after separation or divorce </p><p>(Amato and Booth, 1997). In this context, one might expect that two parents </p><p>have greater success than one in finding the time, energy, and care required for </p><p>children with additional needs, such as those associated with hyperactivity </p><p>inattention among the young. </p><p>Whereas remarriage often leads to a significant improvement in the financial </p><p>situation of children, it does not always lead to increases in parental supervision. </p><p>Although stepparents potentially contribute to children both in terms of their </p><p>time and financial resources, evidence indicates that non-biological parents tend </p><p>to be less involved with stepchildren as compared with biological parents-and </p><p>may at times disrupt relations with the absent parent (Amato, 1998). Indeed, in </p><p>some situations the concept of stepparent may be too strong, since the adult may </p><p>be viewed more as the parent's partner rather than as the child' s second parent </p><p>(McLanahan, 2000). Children raised in stepparent families appear to fare just </p><p>about as well (or as poorly) as children raised in single-parent families (Harper </p><p>and McLanahan, 2004). That observation holds true in spite of the fact that the </p><p>economic situation of stepfamilies tends to be significantly better, on average, </p><p>than the economic situation of lone-parent families. </p><p>The research on the impact of family structure might be reworked in terms </p><p>of the insights of Coleman (1988), who observed that child outcomes not only </p><p>depend on the financial capital available to families (i.e., the income, property, </p><p>and wealth of parents), but also the transfer of human and social capital to </p><p>children. The financial capital available to children largely depends upon the </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 21:47:05 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>Family Structure and Children's Hyperactivity Problems 89 </p><p>income of parents and parental separation can disrupt such support (McLanahan </p><p>and Sandefur, 1994). When one parent does not live with the child, a smaller </p><p>transfer of human capital may occur in that the absent parent's education and </p><p>experience may be less useful to the child. The transfer of social capital may be </p><p>adversely affected as well, for the contacts and social relations that children </p><p>receive from absent parents may be reduced. </p><p>More generally, Amato (1998) emphasized the potential importance of </p><p>fathers in meeting the economic and emotional needs of children. Unless one or </p><p>both parents exert negative influences on the child such as through substance </p><p>abuse or violence (Jaffee et al., 2003), children in intact families can most </p><p>readily benefit from such transfers. In non-intact families, t...</p></li></ul>