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Relationship breakdowns and parental job losses 'key triggers' for child poverty, research shows

The ESRI found that around four in ten young people surveyed experienced at least one spell of poverty between 2007 and 2017.

Image: Shutterstock/Tuzemka

AROUND FOUR IN ten children and young people surveyed in Ireland over a ten-year period experienced poverty on at least a once-off basis. 

A new report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has found that relationship breakdowns and parental job losses are “key triggers” for transitioning into child poverty. 

The report looked at the economic circumstances of children. The research included was conducted between 2007 and 2017, analysing the circumstances of those aged 0-9 (born in 2008) and those aged 9-17 (born in 1998). 

It found that living in poverty, especially over a prolonged period of time, has far-reaching consequences for children aged up to 17.

Experiencing poverty during childhood is linked to worse outcomes across nearly all key aspects of a child’s life including cognitive and educational attainment, engagement with school, socio-emotional development and health behaviours. 

Even children who had a once-off experience with poverty showed worse outcomes than those who were never exposed. 

To measure poverty, the study looked at low income, deprivation and having difficulty making ends meet. 

The impact of the economic recession was “clearly visible” for both age groups, the research said, with poverty rates peaking in 2011-2012. 

In those born in 1998, families where a partner had left the household during the ten-year period were 2.5 times more likely to become poor than families with no partnership change.

In the 2008 group, the risk was 3.5 times greater. 

The study also highlighted the impact a parent losing a job has on becoming poor in childhood.

Research showed taking up full-time work triggered an exit from poverty, but taking up part-time work did not. 

Around four in ten surveyed experienced at least one spell of poverty over the ten-year period of the study.

Of these, two in ten had families who were always or persistently poor, while the other two in ten experienced poverty on a once-off basis. 

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Persistent poverty levels were more common among children and young people living in one-parent households or large families with four or more children. 

Dr Helen Russell, research professor at the ESRI and one of the report authors said: There is a wide body of evidence that shows the detrimental effect of childhood poverty in both the short and longer term. 

This research highlights family and labour market events that trigger entry and exit from poverty, which can help inform policy interventions.

The study is part of a research programme with the ESRI and the Department of Children. The report is being launched today by Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman.

Minister O’Gorman said the research shows the “real and damaging long term impact of child poverty”. 

“As a Government, we have to be proactive in addressing poverty, as the paper notes, supporting parents through providing accessible, affordable, and high-quality childcare,” he said. 

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