Parental death is one of the many risks faced by children in poor communities, especially in Africa in the context of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.While the death of a parent at any age is a significant and distressing event, Young Lives research in Ethiopia finds that the age the child is when a parent dies is important for outcomes later on. If a parent dies early on in a child’s life (between ages 0 and 6) then the death per se does not seem to affect children’s health, education, sense of optimism or self-esteem at age 12, in part due to the fact that younger children are more likely to be absorbed into the care of close relatives. In sharp contrast, if its mother dies in middle childhood (between ages 7 and 12) a child is less likely to be enrolled at school or to be able to read or write, and if the father dies it seems to reduce the child’s sense of optimism. These effects appear to apply equally to boys and girls alike. These findings are an important contribution towards the development of a policy framework for supporting orphans and other vulnerable children in Ethiopia.
Young Lives, Department of International Development at the University of Oxford, UK. 4 pp.