Strong family ties improve employment options for people with childhood-onset disabilities

Family and close friends play an integral role in helping people with childhood-onset disabilities attain quality employment as adults, a new study from Oregon State University has found.

“Having a disability from childhood has wide-ranging impacts on early childhood development, schooling, socialization and more,” said David Baldridge, an associate professor of management in the OSU College of Business and one of the study’s authors. “If your social network is already more limited because of your disability, your strong ties become even more important.”

The findings underscore the value of social supports for people with disabilities to assist them in building those networks and, when they are employed, navigating the workplace in an effort to secure more hours or access jobs that require more advanced skills, Baldridge said. The study was published recently in the journal Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal. Co-authors are Alison M. Konrad of the University of Western Ontario; Mark E. Moore of East Carolina University; and Yang Yang of Rowan University.

People with disabilities make up roughly 15 percent of the world’s population but as a group they have received little attention from management scholars. Much of the existing research on employment for people with disabilities focuses on employment status, with less attention paid to employment quality, Baldridge said.

Those with childhood-onset disabilities – meaning they were born with a disability or acquired one as a minor—are among the most marginalized populations when it comes to employment. They are often unemployed or underemployed in jobs that do not provide adequate hours for financial self-sufficiency or fulfillment because their skills and abilities are underutilized.

“You can’t just look at whether they are working or not,” Baldridge said. “Are they using all of their skills to the best of their ability?”The researchers’ goal with the new study was to better understand how social capital may be linked to improved employment opportunities for people with childhood-onset disabilities. Social capital is the value of employees’ social networks, which are comprised of people that employees know, and includes strong ties to family and friends and value created by interactions with people in their social…

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