Echoes of disadvantage across the generations? The influence of long-term joblessness and separation of grandparents on grandchildren

Echoes of disadvantage across the generations? The influence of long-term joblessness and separation of grandparents on grandchildren

24 June 2013

Findings from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) point to an increased likelihood of intergenerational disadvantage for children if their parents and/or grandparents experienced joblessness, relationship separation, or both.

Data from both the B and K cohorts of LSAC were used to explore intergenerational disadvantage arising from the joblessness and/or separation of grandparents, and its influence on children’s development. The data point to intergenerational continuity of family joblessness and separation, as children of parents who were jobless and/or separated at any point in time were more likely to have experienced grandparent joblessness and/or separation.

For example, in two-parent B cohort families who had been jobless for one wave of the study or more, 20% had both parents experience family joblessness in their family of origin, compared to only 6% where neither parent had experienced joblessness. In both cohorts, a larger percentage of LSAC parents separated if either maternal or paternal grandparents had separated. This percentage was higher in families where both maternal and paternal grandparents had separated.

In terms of academic performance, children with no family history of joblessness fared significantly better compared to children with parent and grandparent experience of joblessness. The separation of grandparents does not seem to be linked to their grandchildren’s academic performance, although the separation of parents had a negative impact on children’s academic performance. However the academic performance of children with two generations of family separation was significantly worse compared to children whose parents had separated.

Results from the study suggest that the experience of grandparents influenced the development of their grandchildren, though the effects of separation are relatively smaller compared to that of joblessness in the grandparent generation. It should also be noted that history is not destiny – many children in the study did not follow this pattern of intergenerational disadvantage. A possible explanation for this resilience could be their parents’ own efforts to overcome the disadvantage they encountered while growing up.

To access the full paper, see – Echoes of disadvantage across the generations? The influence of long-term joblessness and separation of grandparents on grandchildren

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