Who promotes child well -being? Essays on the importance of the household for child well -being

Solveig Argeseanu, University of Pennsylvania


The three essays presented in this dissertation explore the importance of household composition for child well-being using data from a demographic surveillance site in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The first essay uses indicators of children's health at birth to determine whether the survival of the maternal grandmother and her presence in the household is associated with better perinatal outcomes. I find that a child whose maternal grandmother is alive throughout the gestation period is slightly larger at birth, but only if the grandmother is not resident. However, the mother's partnership status, another element of household composition, is strongly associated with birth weight. The second essay further explores how the marital and non-marital relationships of the parents might affect a child's chances of surviving through infancy and the first 7 years of life. I find that parental partnerships, including but not limited to marriage, are very important for child survival. Children of married mothers had half the hazard of dying faced by the children of unpartnered mothers. Furthermore, among children whose mothers were unmarried, those whose mothers were involved in regular non-marital partnerships had higher survival chances. In terms of cause-specific mortality, the children of married women were much less likely to die of any cause, including AIDS, than the children of unmarried mothers. The third essay turns to the importance of living arrangements for children's education, an indicator of child health and household investment in the child. I find that children who were members of the same household as their parents completed more schooling than children whose parents were absent or deceased. If the parent is not a member of the household, it makes little difference whether he or she is deceased or absent. Grandparents and other older adults in the household do not appear to improve education outcomes, nor mitigate the loss of a parent. Furthermore, other child household members are associated with slower educational progress of school-aged children. The three essays highlight the strong associations between parental relationships, children's access to mothers and fathers, and child well-being.

Subject Area

Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Demographics

Recommended Citation

Argeseanu, Solveig, "Who promotes child well -being? Essays on the importance of the household for child well -being" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3246132.