THE NUMBER OF families experiencing difficulties making ends meet increased hugely in the period after the start of the downturn, according to the latest data from the Growing up in Ireland study.
New research relating to 11,000 children and their parents has been published today.
It shows that in late 2008/early 2009, 44 per cent of the families interviewed considered that they were having financial difficulties. When they were re-interviewed just over two years later, that figure had risen to 61 per cent. The first interviews were conducted when the children were nine months old — the second batch around the children’s third birthdays.
Almost two-thirds of the families said that the recession had had a big effect on their lives since their first interview — as a result of reductions in wages and cuts in working hours and social welfare payments.
32 per cent of that group said this had meant having to cut back on basics, while 14 per cent said they had fallen behind on utility bills and 9 per cent said they were falling behind on their rent or mortgage.
A total of 19,500 children are taking part in the Growing up in Ireland study. The other group of children (8,500 in total) were recruited into the research at the age of nine. It’s funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and the findings are used for policy development.
Social advantage gap
In terms of children’s socio-economic development, the research released shows that children being brought up by parents who were experiencing some form of stress were more likely to display behavioural difficulties; it also found a link between those problems and changes in parents’ stress levels in the years between the first and second interviews.
Boys were more likely to be “in the problematic range of socio-emotional behaviour” as were children from more socially disadvantaged groups. Meanwhile, girls performed better on tests of cognitive ability than boys at the age of three.
The study also found that social gradients were becoming clear by the time a child reached their third birthday.
Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald said that the latest findings provided “a rich description of the family, childcare and financial circumstances in which the youngest members of our society live”.
What this report also highlights is that even by 3 years, there is evidence of an emerging gap in child outcomes relating to levels of social advantage”.
The full details of the study can be found at the Growing Up in Ireland website.