Parental Absence, Family Instability, and Child Mortality in Tanzania

Lauren Gaydosh, Princeton University

This paper examines the influence of the family on child mortality through four components: the cause of parental absence, the resulting family structure in which the child lives, the instability the child faces, and the complexity of the family. The existing research tends to focus on the negative consequences of particular family structures resulting from specific causes of parental absence. This paper improves upon the existing scholarship by broadening our view of the family and parental absence through a consideration of three causes of parental absence – death, labor migration, and marriage related migration – exploring the potential positive along with negative effects of parental absence. Using demographic surveillance data from Tanzania, this paper estimates the influence of these four components on child mortality. Preliminary findings demonstrate important differences in the effect of parental absence depending on cause.

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Presented in Poster Session 3: Health of Women, Children, and Families