Disability Is Not a Burden: The Relationship between Early Childhood Disability and Maternal Health Depends on Family Socioeconomic Status

Publication Year


Journal Article

Narratives rooted in ableism portray disabled children as burdens on their families. Prior research highlights health disparities between mothers of disabled children and mothers of nondisabled children, but little is known about how socio-structural contexts shape these inequities. Using longitudinal data from the Future of Families and Child Wellbeing Study (n = 2,338), this study assesses whether the relationship between early childhood disability and maternal health varies by household socioeconomic status (SES). Findings reveal that, on average, mothers of children disabled by age five report worse health than mothers of nondisabled children; however, this pattern is only evident among lower SES mothers and disappears for higher SES mothers. Contextualizing the findings within the systemic ableism literature highlights how—instead of portraying disabled children as burdens on their families—scholars and policymakers should focus on how ableism and poverty burden disabled people and their families in ways that pattern health risks.

Journal of Health and Social Behavior