Executive Summary

by Laura H. Lippman & W. Bradford Wilcox

The family is the core institution for child-rearing worldwide, and decades of research have shown that strong families promote positive child outcomes. For this reason the World Family Map Project monitors family well-being and investigates how family characteristics affect children’s healthy development around the globe. Families do not operate in a vacuum: their ability to provide for their children and supervise their development depends not only on parenting behaviors and attitudes but also on the social, economic, and policy environments that surround them. Yet efforts to strengthen families are often considered off-limits or of low priority for policy and programmatic interventions, especially in times of financial strain. With the indicators and analyses presented here, this project points individuals, families, communities, NGOs, and governments to some key factors affecting child and family well-being that policies and programs can shape in order to foster strong families and positive outcomes for children.

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ESSAY: FAMILY INSTABILITY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD HEALTH IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD

by Laurie DeRose, Paúl Corcuera, Montserrat Gas,Luis Carlos Molinero Fernandez, Andrés Salazar, Claudia Tarud

Improving children’s health in lower-income countries around the globe is one of the paramount concerns of the international community. Research on this topic has focused on the role of financial resources, women’s education, and public health interventions, largely overlooking the ways in which family structure, and union instability in particular, may shape children’s health. Union instability may affect children’s health by redirecting attention and time away from children, causing stress, disrupting networks of social support, and reducing the socioeconomic resources available to parents. These consequences of union instability, in turn, may make it more difficult for parents to give children the kind of consistent care they need to thrive—from the attention and affection associated with health to the medical care needed to treat an acute condition.

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WORLD FAMILY INDICATORS

FAMILY STRUCTURE

Key Findings: Children’s lives are influenced by the number of parents and siblings that they live with, as well as by whether their parents are married. The World Family Map reports these key indicators of family structure in this section. READ MORE »

FAMILY SOCIOECONOMICS

Key Findings: Socioeconomic indicators measure the material, human, and government resources that support family and child well-being. The socioeconomic indicators highlighted in our study include poverty; undernourishment (as a marker of material deprivation); parental education and employment; and public family benefits. READ MORE »

FAMILY PROCESSES

Key Findings: Family process indicators describe the interactions between members of a family, including their relationships, communication patterns, time spent together, and satisfaction with family life. Data on family processes are challenging to obtain in a way that allows for international comparisons, but this situation is likely to improve as new data are expected to be released. Here are some examples of indicators of family processes that can influence child and family well-being: family satisfaction; agreement or disagreement over household work; parent-child discussions about school; family meals together; and the time spent talking between parents and teenagers. While few countries have data on these measures, there is wide variation across the countries that do have data available. READ MORE »

FAMILY CULTURE

Key Findings:Family culture refers to the family-related attitudes and norms that are expressed by a country’s citizens. Data suggest that adults take a range of progressive and conservative positions on family issues. READ MORE »

GENERAL METHODS

Selecting indicators: Indicators were selected by the study team along with advisors representing every region of the world using a research-based conceptual framework of family strengths. Four groups of indicators were generated in the following domains: family structure, family socioeconomics, family process, and family culture. Indicators were chosen for each domain based upon their importance to family and child well-being, data availability, and regional representation, and in order to achieve balance in the number of indicators across domains. READ MORE »

DATA SOURCES

Country-level Sources

When data were not available from an international survey, country-level data sources were sought. Examples include data from national statistics bureaus and country-level surveys. READ MORE »

SUPPLEMENT: FAMILY STRUCTURE ACROSS EUROPE AND CHILDREN’S PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH

by Reynaldo Gustavo Rivera, Intermedia Social Innovation

Health challenges in the European Union (EU) are substantially different from those covered elsewhere in this report because positive health outcomes are more common overall in the EU than in lower-income countries. However, in both richer and poorer countries, children’s health outcomes tend to be shaped by the influence of national-level factors, socioeconomic inequality between households, and family structure within individual households. In most EU states, children are at greater risk of poverty and social exclusion than the general population. Economic crisis, and its associated social impact, can result in even greater proportions of children at risk, and thus magnify the pronounced nature of health disparities. Psychological health is a pressing issue in the EU, where the cost of mental disorders has been estimated at 3 to 4 percent of GNP and where epidemiological evidence suggests that children are suffering from certain mental disorders in increasing proportions and at earlier ages.

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