‘Growing Up in Ireland’ report reveals family hardship

Long-term study tracks almost 20,000 children born in 1998 and 2008

Dr Dorothy Watson, of the Economic and Social Research Institute: ‘There have been important changes over time in the composition of economically vulnerable families.’ Photograph: Joe St Leger

Dr Dorothy Watson, of the Economic and Social Research Institute: ‘There have been important changes over time in the composition of economically vulnerable families.’ Photograph: Joe St Leger

 

Children born to mothers in their 30s with a third-level education are less likely to develop emotional or behavioural problems as a result of their families experiencing financial hardship.

The findings from the Growing Up in Ireland longitudinal study, which tracks almost 20,000 children as they grow up in a changing Ireland, shows the impact the recession has had on families, revealing marked increases in financial hardship and the detrimental effect it has on children’s socio-emotional development.

The study involves two sets of children born 10 years apart.

The first set was born in 1998. Their families were first interviewed between September 2007 and early 2008, when the children were nine, and again in 2011 and 2012, when the children were 13.

Families of the second set of children, born in 2008, were interviewed when the children were nine months old and again in 2011 when they were three.

Financial hardship

There was a dramatic increase in economic vulnerability in both sets of families between their first and second interviews. Families experiencing financial hardship rose from 15 per cent to 25 per cent for the 1998 families and from 19 per cent to 25 per cent for the 2008 families.

Levels of joblessness and financial stress increased substantially for both groups and living standards deteriorated.

Lacking basic goods

Junior Cert

However, as the recession progressed, the profile of economically vulnerable families changed. By the second round of interviews, more two-parent families and families with higher levels of education were experiencing financial hardship.

Persistent poverty was found to have more effect on a child’s socio-emotional wellbeing than being poor at one particular time.

Dr Dorothy Watson, associate research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute, and co-author of the report, said the research highlighted the value of being able to track the experience of the same families over time.

“The results allow us to see there have been important changes over time in the composition of economically vulnerable families . . . many economically vulnerable families no longer fit the traditional profile of poor families,” she said.