21 September 2020

How Often Do Parents Predecease Their Minor Children?

In the United States, children are more likely to lose one parent to death than to a termination of parental rights, but are less likely to lose both parents due to death, than through a termination of parental rights. 

Children are much more likely to end up in foster care, or to be adopted by strangers (as of the termination of parental rights or death of the last parent), due to both parents having parental rights terminated, than they are because they are orphaned as children (also when children are orphaned, a guardianship with a relative as a guardian for a minor child is more common relative to foster care than in a termination of parental rights scenario, although guardianships of minors due to the termination of the parental rights of both parents, usually by a grandparent or aunt or uncle or older sibling, is not uncommon). 

From the U.S. Census Bureau (in a 2019 report) (prettier charts here).

Among children who are currently under age 18 (some of whom who haven't lost a parent yet will lose one or both parents before becoming an adult), 0.7% do not have a mother living, 2.2% do not have a father living, 2.8% have at least one deceased parent, and both parents are deceased for 0.1%.

Among young adults age 18-24, which roughly captures the likelihood of losing a parent while a minor, 2.1% have a deceased mother, 5.9% have a deceased father, 7.7% have at least one deceased parent, and both parents are decreased for 0.3%.

As noted in yesterday's post at this blog, the odds that at least one parent's parental rights will be terminated during the life of a child is roughly 1%. 

This number isn't exactly comparable, however, because it is far more common for both parents to have their parental rights terminated, than for both parents to die while their children are minors.

It also isn't clear to what extent the data on termination of parental rights includes cases in which a father is never identified for a child and a father-child bond is never established.

Losing a parent to death and losing a parent due to termination of a parental rights are both more common when children are poor, and when they are black or Hispanic or Native American.

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