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Long work days strain bond with parent and child

PARENTS' careers are having a negative effect on their relationship with their children, new research has found.

A comprehensive study that tracks the lives of nine-year-olds in Ireland found that parents who work long hours are less likely to form strong emotional bonds with their families.

The report also laid bare the problem of bullying in Ireland -- with interviewers finding that children spoke openly about the "horrible" effects of being bullied.

Children admitted that individual differences, such as body size, appearance and race, could lead to a child becoming a victim of bullying.

Victims said being bullied made them "very sad" and "scared or worried" with the report overall deeming bullying as "a prevalent issue in the lives of children".

The report -- carried out by Growing Up In Ireland -- also revealed that some children have troubled attitudes towards their weight and eating habits.

Parents were also found to be increasingly concerned about their ability to meet housing and education needs, with children admitting that they felt conflict in the home was partly to blame for parents feeling tired and stressed.

A minority of children who took part said they were subject to physical punishment, with most claiming to understand the need for boundaries and discipline.

The study also examined children's attitudes to health and wellbeing, as well as their attitudes to the future.

Three-quarters said they regularly ate sugary snacks while some also had a detailed knowledge of anorexia. Most children recognised that being "too fat" or "too skinny" was unhealthy.

And the biggest concern for children in the future is "financial security" -- having a "nice house" and "good job".

The majority of girls admitted to wanting to have a career on stage, while most boys said they wanted to be sports players.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald -- who launched the study -- said it was "of critical importance".

"It provides a comprehensive and highly valuable evidence base which can be used to inform and guide our development and delivery of targeted and effective programmes for children and young people."

And Professor Sheila Greene, the co-director of Growing Up In Ireland and director of the Children's Research Centre in Trinity College Dublin, said the research "gives us a unique insight into the world in which nine-year-olds live", representing children "from different points on the socio-economic spectrum, and from many types of families".