Perceived Effects of Leave from Work and the Role of Paid Leave Among Parents of Children with Special Health Care Needs

Published In: American Journal of Public Health, v. 99, no. 4, Apr. 2009, p. 698-705

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2009

by Mark A. Schuster, Paul J. Chung, Marc N. Elliott, Craig F. Garfield, Katherine D. Vestal, David J. Klein

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OBJECTIVES: The authors examined the perceived effects of leave from work among employed parents of children with special health care needs. METHODS: Telephone interviews were conducted from November 2003 to January 2004 with 585 parents who had missed 1 or more workdays for their child's illness in the previous year. RESULTS: Most parents reported positive effects of leave on their child's physical (81%) and emotional (85%) health; 57% reported a positive effect on their own emotional health, although 24% reported a negative effect. Most parents reported no effect (44%) or a negative effect (42%) on job performance; 73% reported leave-related financial problems. In multivariate analyses, parents receiving full pay during leave were more likely than were parents receiving no pay to report positive effects on child physical (odds ratio [OR]=1.85) and emotional (OR=1.68) health and parent emotional health (OR=1.70), and were less likely to report financial problems (OR=0.20). CONCLUSIONS: Employed parents believed that leave-taking benefited the health of their children with special health care needs and their own emotional health, but compromised their job performance and finances. Parents who received full pay reported better consequences across the board. Access to paid leave, particularly with full pay, may improve parent and child outcomes.

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