Final Synthesis Report of Findings from ASPE "Leavers" Grants. Childrens Behavior


Another way to assess child well-being is to examine indicators of a childs behavior. Some of the ASPE-funded leaver studies directly ask about current behavior relative to pre-exit behavior (e.g. is child behavior better or worse now?). Washington state asks about behavior for the post-exit period and the pre-exit period separately. Overall, these limited results suggest that child behaviors have not, on average, worsened for families since their exit from TANF.

 Four studies report some results for childrens school-related behavior (Table VII.2). When asked whether a childs school-related behavior was better or worse since exit, the majority of leavers said better with a only small number reporting worse. For example, in South Carolina, 60 percent of families said their child had a greater concern for doing well in school since exit, while only 8 percent said that concern had decreased. In Iowa, 43 percent of families report school behavior and performance was better relative to exit, and only 8 percent reported it was worse.

Table VII.2:
Measures of School and Non-school Related Behaviors of Single-Parent Leaver Families' Children


GA IA MA1 SC1,2,3 WA 2 Bay Area

School-Related Behaviors

High level of school engagement


Child's homework better/worse since exit


Child's concern for doing well in school is more/less since exit


Child's school performance very good/not good at all


School behavior and performance better relative to exit


School performance better than others same age

    45 4      

Suspension or expulsion from school

  29 13   19(24) 5  

Dropped out of school

        6(5) 5  

Non-School Related Behaviors

In trouble with law

      5(4) 15 (15)  

Child ran away from home for overnight

        6 (10)  

Child engages in risk behaviors


Child ages 5-13 unsupervised some hours per week


Often/sometimes doesn't get along with others


Often/sometimes unable to concentrate


Often/sometimes unhappy, sad, or depressed


Child's behavior better/worse since exit

      44/11 6    

Behavior compared to others of same age - better

    42 4      

1Results are for all cases, not just single-parents.
2Numbers in parentheses are for before exit for SC and caseload for WA.
3Results are for a focal child in family. All reports are out of families with school-age children. Results are for families that remain off of welfare at the time of the survey.
4Information available for categories much better, little better, about the same, little worse, much worse.
5Asked of leavers with children ages 11 or older.
6SC has many other measures of changes in behavior relative to exit including how child gets along with others, whether more/less outgoing, and temperment.
Source: See Appendix B for a complete listing of the leavers studies referenced.

Another important school-based outcome for children is whether they have been suspended or expelled from school. The percentage of TANF leavers that had children suspended or expelled from school ranges from 13 percent in Massachusetts to 29 percent in Iowa. Washington reports that the share of leaver children (age 11 or older) expelled or suspended is 19 percentlower than the share of current welfare recipient children expelled or suspended in that state, 24 percent. 

Several studies report other non-school-related child behaviors. These range from children being in trouble with the law to broad behavioral/emotional measures, such as how often a child reports being unhappy or depressed. Two studies report the share of families with children who had been in trouble with the law 5 percent in South Carolina and 15 percent in Washington. Both of these studies report similar findings for families receiving TANF. The Bay Area study reports that 12 percent of children engage in risky behaviors and 8 percent of 5 to 13 year olds are unsupervised for some hours during the week. 45 

Georgia reports that about a third of leaver children often or sometimes have trouble getting along with others, are unable to concentrate, or are unhappy, sad, or depressed. South Carolina leavers report that their childrens behavior is better since exit in 44 percent of families and is worse in 11 percent. Finally, Massachusetts asks leavers to compare their childrens behavior with that of other similarly aged children and finds that 42 percent consider their children to be more well-behaved than other children.