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Participation and Activity Limitation Survey: Impact on families

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The Daily

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The parents of 3 out of 5 children who had some form of activity limitation in 2006 reported that their employment was affected by their child's condition. More than one-third of parents reported that they worked fewer hours, while another third indicated they had adjusted their work hours.

The child's activity limitation influenced the parent's employment in a variety of areas. The largest impact reported related to hours worked.

Some 38.4% of parents reported that they worked fewer hours, while an additional 36.5% indicated they had adjusted their work hours to accommodate their child's activity limitation.

Women were more likely to have adjusted their employment than men. Asked whose employment was most affected, parents reported it was the mother in 64% of cases, both parents in 25%, the father in 8% and other family members in 3%.

In 2006, about 200,000 Canadian families were coping with the challenges that arise from caring for a child with disabilities. These challenges are diverse in nature, and can affect many aspects of life.

Parents of children with severe to very severe activity limitations were more likely than parents of children with mild to moderate activity limitations to indicate that their child's condition had an impact on their employment, finances, leisure and personal time. This was also the case with respect to their ability to find help and childcare.

Note to readers

This report is the sixth in a series of releases analyzing information from the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS). It focuses on the impact a child with an activity limitation has on the family when present in the household.

These questions were answered by one parent (or guardian) of children up to the age of 14 who had an activity limitation. It cannot be inferred from this report that the findings are representative of all parents of children with disabilities. Furthermore this report is based on child-level data. This means that all estimates represent the number (or percentage) of children with activity limitations whose responding parent (or guardian) gave a certain response to the survey.

The terms "activity limitation" and "disability" are used interchangeably in this report. A person with an activity limitation is defined as a person whose everyday activities are limited because of a health-related condition or problem.

The PALS severity scale was derived using disability concepts from the World Health Organization. For more information, consult the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey 2006: Technical and Methodological Report (89-628-XWE2007001, free).

PALS was funded by Human Resources and Social Development Canada and conducted by Statistics Canada. The survey provides essential information on the prevalence of different activity limitations, the types of support available to people with activity limitations, their employment profile, income and participation in social activities.

Despite having a child with a disability, nearly two-thirds of parents reported that their health ranged from good to excellent. Moreover, 4 out of 5 parents of children with activity limitations reported that they were satisfied with their quality of life.

Figure 1 Proportion of caregivers of children with activity limitations whose employment was affected, by caregiver type, 2006

Help for parents

Almost 1 in 4 parents (24.6%) received help in balancing daily activities with their child's activity limitation. Of the families who received assistance, well over half (56.5%) received help from family members living outside of the family home.

Other sources of help, to a lesser degree, were government organizations or agencies, friends or neighbours, and family living in the family home. There were no significant differences between lone parents and parents in relationships in regard to help received.

Parents most often asked for help to gain more personal time, to attend to other family responsibilities, and to do household chores. Parents of children with severe activity limitations were more likely to express a need for help.

For those parents who did not obtain extra help, cost was the main barrier. Nearly three-quarters of these parents (73.5%) reported that the extra help was too expensive.

Use of childcare

Nearly 3 in 10 parents (28.9%) who had a child with an activity limitation used some form of childcare.

The use of childcare was influenced by the severity of the child's condition. Parents of children with severe activity limitations were more likely to use childcare. Just over one-third (34.3%) of them did so, compared with 25.2% of parents of children with mild to moderate activity limitations.

More than 1 in 5 parents (21.5%) who were using childcare stated that childcare services or programs had refused to provide care for their child.

In one-quarter (25.4%) of these cases, daycare centres had refused child care.

Health and stress

Although the majority of parents were satisfied with their health and lives in general, they experienced stress related to their child's condition.

Just over one-quarter of parents (26.5%) reported that the condition of their child's health was their main source of stress. This proportion increased to 38.3% among parents of children who had a severe to very severe activity limitation.

Parents experienced stress in trying to balance the responsibilities of caring for their child with an activity limitation and other obligations, such as work.

Approximately 3 out of 5 parents (61.4%) reported feeling stress sometimes or always coping with these responsibilities. This was most pronounced when looking at the severity of the activity limitation.

For example, 46.2% of parents of children with a mild to moderate activity limitation reported such stress. This proportion increased to 81.7% for parents of children with severe to very severe activity limitations.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3251.

The publication The 2006 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey: Families of Children with Disabilities in Canada (89-628-XWE2008009, free), is now available from the Publications module of our website. A series of tables are also available (89-628-XWE2008010, free).

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact the Krista Kowalchuk (613-951-0784;, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division.