The Irish Times view on growing up in Ireland: good news for most children
Children of the crash are healthier and happier than before, though gaping inequalities and poorer outcomes for children in socially-disadvantaged families persist
While most families’ economic circumstances are improving, the rising tide is not lifting all equally. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
It is easy to fret about the quality of life for children in Ireland today. We are inundated with siren warnings that young people are overweight, over-protected, increasingly dependent and growing up in a troubled world dominated by digital devices. However, last week’s Growing Up In Ireland survey, a longitudinal survey of more than 7,000 nine-year-olds, paints a brighter and more hopeful picture. It finds that the children of Ireland’s economic crash are healthier, friendlier and resilient, despite their families suffering more financial hardship.
The vast majority of nine-year-olds, for example, are not overweight or obese and are eating more fruit and vegetables than they did a decade ago. The proportion of children reported as “very healthy” is on the rise.
Most parents across all income groups share a very affectionate and warm relationship with their children. For the minority of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, there is evidence that much of this is transitory. These findings are positive, but there are areas of real concern. While most families’ economic circumstances are improving, the rising tide is not lifting all equally. There is evidence of gaping inequalities, such as poorer outcomes for children in socially-disadvantaged families.
A child’s wellbeing and life chances should not be pre-determined by their parents’ income. All children should have the same opportunity to reach their full potential
Less than half of families of children born during the crash have seen their fortunes improve in recent years, while the circumstances of almost a sixth are getting worse.
This state of inequality requires urgent attention. The Government has spoken often about its aim of building a fair society. It has yet to be matched by the kind of large-scale early intervention, prevention and support schemes that can make a real impact in the lives of vulnerable children. A child’s wellbeing and life chances should not be pre-determined by their parents’ income. All children should have the same opportunity to reach their full potential. Far more ambition, backed up by greater funding and political will, is vital if we are the end the cycle of childhood poverty and lost opportunities.