Wednesday 17 January 2018

One-parent children at bigger risk of emotional difficulties

Minister Katherine Zappone. Picture Credit: Frank McGrath
Minister Katherine Zappone. Picture Credit: Frank McGrath

Alan O'Keeffe

Children in one-parent families are at more risk of experiencing emotional and behavioural difficulties than children in two-parent families, a new study has revealed.

And children of unskilled workers are 65pc more likely to be obese at three years old than children of professional parents.

The report, entitled 'Cherishing All The Children Equally? Ireland 100 Years On From The Rising,' is published by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and will be launched in book form today by Children's Minister Katherine Zappone.

The report investigates if the 1916 Proclamation of Independence's resolution to "...cherish all of the children of the nation equally", has been realised 100 years on from the Easter Rising.

Conducted over 10 years, the report is the first comprehensive analysis of inequalities that persist among children in modern Ireland.


The report found that, despite many improvements in education and health and other areas, children's well-being is still largely shaped by the economic circumstances and social position of parents.

James Williams, Research Professor at the ESRI and one of the co-editors of the book, said "while we have undoubtedly made huge strides in terms of how we think about and treat children in Ireland, the book presents evidence concluding that we have not lived up to the Proclamation's resolution to cherish all of the children of the nation equally.

"Despite the changing nature of inequality over time, children's future prospects continue to be shaped by family circumstances.

"Measures existing to help children flourish must be cognisant of the powerful impact of the home environment on child well-being and development."

The findings point to implications for public policy that could offer more for supporting families most in need and help children to reach their potential regardless of family circumstances, health or ethnic background.

The book looks at how different types of families affect child development, in the context of dramatic changes in the last 100 years.

Those changes include an increase in one-parent families, non-marital births and the rising incidence of divorce, separation, cohabitation, civil partnerships and same-sex marriage.

There is "a consistent pattern of disadvantage for children living in one-parent families", according to the report.

There is a greater likelihood of welfare dependence, lower maternal education and lower incomes among one-parent families. The children in those families are at greater risk of experiencing "socio-emotional and behavioural difficulties."

For children generally, the higher the family's income or the higher the level of the mother's education, the more advanced the child's language development is.

Home-based learning activities and visits to the library are much more common among children from more advantaged families.

The authors welcomed the introduction of the free pre-school year in 2010 for extending access to pre-school among disadvantaged groups.

Social inequality in health outcomes were cited.

Some 7.9pc of children from lowest income families were found to be lower in birth weight, compared to 4.6pc of those from the highest income families.

Low birth weight children are five times more likely to fall behind in developing skills and do less well in reading and maths tests at the age of nine.

Irish Independent

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