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This study examined the relationship between family structure and risk factors for children’s emotional and behavioural outcomes at 9 years of age. Family structure in this study is defined as; married, separated, divorced, widowed and never married families. Three risk factors were identified from the literature; economic deprivation, maternal depression and life events. This study is a cross sectional quantitative analysis of the ‘Growing Up in Ireland’s’ child cohort (9 year olds) dataset. This is nationally representative sample of 9 year old children living in Ireland; the sample was collected through a two-stage, stratified random sampling approach. Of the 8,568 respondents in the sample, 8,209 meet the criterion of this study, which required that the respondents were female and had identified their marital status. The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) was used to measure emotional and behavioural outcomes. Annual income, the Basic Deprivation Scale, Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CESD-8) and a life events question were used to measure risk factors. The data was analysed using frequencies, chi-square tests and configurational analysis, which were performed through PASW (Predictive Analytics Software). Findings indicated that children from married families are more likely to have better developmental outcomes, compared to children from alternative family structures. Findings also showed that the risk factors identified in this study, were associated with poorer developmental outcomes and may have some moderating effect on the relationship between family structure and developmental outcomes at 9 years of age. Furthermore, the findings provided some support for the cumulative effect of risk factors on developmental outcomes, as the findings indicated that as the number of risk factors increased, optimal developmental outcomes tended to decline. As a cross sectional study, causal mechanisms can not be determined, however the findings suggest that risk factors may be more important than family structure in influencing developmental outcomes at 9 years of age. Further analysis of this data and a longitudinal analysis (once the data set for the second wave of the child cohort interviews have been released) would be beneficial in further determining the importance of family structure and risk factors for children’s developmental outcomes.
Lafferty, Z. : Family structure and risk factors: An investigation into emotional and behavioural outcomes for nine-year-olds. Masters Dissertation, Dublin, Dublin Institute of Technology, 2012