Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Maternal Depression and Child Health as Predictors of Absenteeism in Preschool Children Eligible to Attend Head Start Public Deposited

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  • This study examines how three measures of child health: overall health status, access to health insurance and dental checkup status, predict the likelihood of a child experiencing higher number of absences in children eligible to attend Head Start, and how that association is influenced by the presence of a depressed maternal figure. Research by Ansari and Purtell (2018) demonstrate that chronic absenteeism results in significantly lower skill attainment in reading and math, especially for children who enter Head Start with already low skill levels. Similar research demonstrates that chronic absenteeism in kindergarten results in lower socio-emotional skills (Romero & Lee, 2007), and that chronic absenteeism influences children throughout their time in elementary school and beyond, resulting in lower skill levels throughout elementary school (Attendance Works, 2011; Chang & Romero, 2008). Additionally, maternal depression plays a role in achievement (Claessens et al., 2015), and Ansari and Purtell (2018) found a small positive correlation between depression and absenteeism in preschool children. Yet the research exploring predictors of absenteeism has focused little on the preschool period, though preschool increases children’s academic and socioemotional skills through kindergarten and beyond (Weiland et al., 2017). Additionally, depression as experienced by mothers has not been explored as a factor influencing children’s attendance at school in conjunction with child health, yet maternal depression moderates the association between child characteristics and child behavior (e.g., Silk et al., 2006). This project utilizes a subsample of the National Head Start Impact Study, specifically 972 mothers and their child with complete data, who responded to the Fall 2002 Parent Interview. I hypothesize that children with poor health or mothers with higher depression will have lower preschool attendance, and that children with poor health and mothers with depressive symptomology will experience even lower attendance rates. Results from original logistic regression models demonstrated no significant associations between health, depression, or the interaction between health and depression to absenteeism. The model testing dental check ups did not meet the test for proportional odds and was not explored. Discussion revolves around conceptual issues, such as defining absenteeism, as well as data issues, such a report of absenteeism within one month.
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