Date of Award

7-2004

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

First Advisor

Lori Wolin

Second Advisor

Eleni Coukos-Semmel

Third Advisor

Fred Dembowski

Abstract

More than currently recognized, family health situations, often compounded with family caregiving responsibilities, affect students' learning and academic performance. Three out of five middle school children (n=3,848) from a large, socio-economically and culturally diverse population sample, responded to the 88-question What Works Survey conducted in 2002, and indicated that someone needing special medical care lived either with them or close by them. Nearly two of five of these students (38.6%) documented that their learning is hindered as a result of their family health/caregiving situation. Among students with family health situations who reported hindered learning, only students who are Asian-Pacific Islanders (n=151) showed less likelihood of both participation in caregiving activities, and negative ramifications on academic performance.

Within the middle school sample, more than one in two students (n=3,534) reported that they perform various family caregiving activities. Of these, 2,267 students, of whom 1,323 were boys (58.4%), responded that their participation in assisting the person needing special medical care, adversely affected their academic performance. Children reported that they missed school and/or after school activities, did not complete their homework assignments, and/or were interrupted in their thinking/studying.

The dual role of student and young caregiver is ubiquitous; however, minority youth in Title I schools are both statistically significantly (p<.001) most likely to be young caregivers, and most likely to incur adverse effects. The academic performance of young caregiver students who are affected represents 37.6% of the whole sample of 6,030 students in grades 6, 7, or 8 in 35 Palm Beach County, Florida public middle schools.

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