The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

The Role of Caregiver Support in Improving Academic Achievement of AIDS-Orphaned Children in Uganda

Sunday, January 19, 2014: 11:15 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 002B River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Proscovia Nabunya, Doctoral Student, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Leyla Ismayilova, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Fred M. Ssewamala, PhD, Associate Professor, Columbia University, New York, NY
Jennifer Nattabi, BA, Project Coordinator - Suubi Rakai Office, Columbia University, New York, NY
Background and Purpose: Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 90 percent of all AIDS-orphaned children (defined as those who have lost one or both parents due to HIV/AIDS), and more than half of these are of school going age between 10 and 15 years (UNAIDS, 2010). Orphaned children encounter both socio and economic hardships including limited financial resources and low educational achievement, mainly due to the loss of the primary source of income and support in the family. Compared to non-orphans, AIDS-orphaned children have lower school enrollment rates and they are more likely to experience school disruptions, which begin prior to the death of their parents (Ainsworth et al, 2000). This is because children are needed to stay at home to take care of the sick parent(s), siblings or work to supplement household income. As a result, orphaned children are more likely to have poor academic performance and to drop out of school completely (Gertler et al, 2004). Orphan girls are even at a greater disadvantage of missing out on school compared to boys. In addition to financial hardships, the relationship between the caregiver and the orphaned child is a determining factor of academic achievement (Case et al, 2003). Indeed, Coleman (1999), identified social support from family members as an important predictor of children’s educational outcomes such as high school graduation, college enrollment and decreased school dropout. This study therefore examines the role of perceived caregiver support in improving the academic achievement of orphaned children in Uganda.

 Methods: This study uses data from the NIMH-funded study known as Suubi-Maka (Hope for families), an intervention for AIDS–orphaned children in Uganda. Caregiver-child dyads were randomly assigned to either the control condition or the treatment condition (N=346). Interviews were conducted at baseline, 10-months and 20-months follow-up. Regression analyses were conducted using perceived caregiver support and family cohesion data at baseline to predict academic achievement (school attendance and schools grades measured by a nationally administered standardized examination for children completing primary school) at 20-months follow up.

 Results: Controlling for socio-economic characteristics and the intervention, perceived caregiver support in form of warmth and acceptance was significantly associated with improvement in school grades (B=-.20, 95% CI= -.35, -.05, p=. 008) (lower numbers indicate better achievement), and reduced school absence (B=-.17, 95% CI=-.14, -.01). Perceived family cohesion was significantly associated with school attendance (B=. 17, 95% CI .052, .29, p=. 005), and household wealth was associated with school grades (B= -.12, 95% CI = -.74, .50, p =. 70)

 Implications: These findings signify the importance of caregiver support in improving academic outcomes of orphaned children. Most of the current efforts that support these children focus on the economic needs, neglecting the family support systems that directly impact children’s outcomes including educational achievement. Future public policies and programs should work to strengthen family support networks among families caring for orphaned children in low resource communities to help improve their later outcomes.