Mental strain of poverty is seen among children

14 February 2020

Children’s Society analyses the Millennium Cohort Study

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CHILDREN who have only known or lived intermittently in poverty up to the age of 14 are more likely to suffer from severe depression than their wealthier peers.

This was among the key findings of new analysis by the Children’s Society of the Millennium Cohort Study, which has produced seven reports since it began in 2000. Based on this, the charity estimates that one tenth of children aged 14 in the UK (73,000) are living in persistent poverty. A further estimated 153,000 are thought to have grown up in homes experiencing intermittent poverty.

The Children’s Society states: “This suggests that thousands of children have grown up knowing nothing but hard times, with their families struggling to pay the bills and provide basic items such as food, clothing, toys, and books.”

The research found that, of the children who had reported experiencing poverty during the first six studies (up to the age of 14), 12 per cent had low life satisfaction, meaning that they were unhappy with their life as a whole. One in six (16 per cent) also had high symptoms of depression, such as feeling that no one loved them.

This was compared with eight per cent of children aged 14 who had never experienced income poverty, and were unhappy with their lives; 12 per cent reported high depressive symptoms.

The charity also analysed the well-being of the parents who were under financial strain. Almost one fifth (18 per cent) of families — the equivalent of 131,000 14-year-olds in the UK — reported experiencing financial strain more than once across the six studies.

The chief executive of the Children’s Society, Mark Russell, said that the figures were “scandalous” given the impact on the mental well-being of the children. “The start of the year is often an extra tough time for families; so it is vital that the Government makes a renewed commitment to cutting record high levels of child poverty and sets out a brand new action plan.

“It is vital that they commit to providing long-term funding to local welfare-assistance schemes. This means that if families do experience financial crisis, they are not left with nowhere to turn, and with the children left dealing with the long-term consequences.”

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