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Growing Up

Strong relationships with parents, peers and teachers 'key to child and adolescent wellbeing'

The latest in the Growing Up In Ireland research is published today.

A NEW STUDY conducted by the ESRI has found that strong relationships with parents, peers and teachers “enhance child and adolescent wellbeing”.

The study, which was funded by the HSE, has been looking at the risk and protective factors for mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.

The Growing Up in Ireland survey used data from two different age cohorts which researchers have been studying for several years.

It looked at how happy people were with their lives. It also investigated what it described as socio-emotional difficulties. These refer to feeling unhappy with their peers or being picked on or bullied.

It found:

  • High levels of life satisfaction and low levels of socio-emotional difficulties among children and young people in Ireland.
  • Socio-emotional difficulties were found to increase between the ages of three and nine. Between 13 and 17 years of age, levels remained stable for boys but increased very significantly for girls.
  • At the age of 17, young women also tended to have slightly lower levels of life satisfaction than their male counterparts.
  • Those who live in single-parent families or poorer families suffer more socio-emotional difficulties.
  • Positive parent-child relationships were associated with lower socio-emotional difficulties.
  • Friendships played a particularly important role in the wellbeing of the 17-year-olds.

The ESRI said that certain policy changes might be considered by Government to address the findings of the research.

For example, it said that there is currently a gap in the curriculum for wellbeing at senior cycle level, a life stage identified as a pressure point for young people in this research.

Financial strain in the family was also strongly linked to poorer mental health and wellbeing, “highlighting the importance of poverty reduction policies in supporting families of children and young people”, the report read.

Anne Nolan, one of the authors of the report, said: “This research was based on data collected before the pandemic. Subsequent data from special Covid surveys of the ’98 and ’08 cohorts in December 2020 showed reduced interaction with friends, deteriorating mental health, poorer diet and significantly reduced participation in sport and cultural activities for many children and young people during the pandemic.”

“The wide-ranging effects of the pandemic on children and young people make it all the more important to be able to identify protective factors which will help enhance young people’s wellbeing in the years ahead,” she added.

Helen Deely, Interim Programme Lead for HSE Health and Wellbeing said this research programme tells the health service “when children and young people experience warm positive relationships at home and/or in school, they are less likely to experience social and emotional difficulties, as they have social support to help them to cope with life’s challenges”.

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