Research reveals impact of recession on families

The harmful effects of the recession on Ireland's families and children have been revealed in major new research.

According to the findings, the economic strain that people were under led to damaged mental health, relationship problems and ‘less warm parenting'.

They are based on results from the Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) study, which has been monitoring the development of nearly 20,000 children since 2007. Prof Richard Layte of Trinity College Dublin (TCD) focused on children between 2008 and 2010/11, to assess the impact of the recession on them.

During this time, household income fell by an average of 16% for GUI families and unemployment among fathers rose from 5.6% to 13.8%. Unemployment among mothers rose from 5.6% to 6.5%.

Some 29% of mothers said they had to cut back on basics during this time, 8% fell behind with rent or mortgage payments and 12% fell behind with utility bills.

The proportion of mothers who said that they had some difficulty in ‘making ends meet' rose from 31% in 2008 to 61% during the recession.

The research revealed that when everything was taken into account, coming under economic pressure increased a mother's risk of showing clinical signs of depression by 84% compared to mothers who were not under economic pressure. The risk for fathers was 61%.

Furthermore, the relationship between mothers and fathers was described as highly sensitive to economic strain. Parents under economic pressure said that they felt less close. They were also more likely to argue and say that they were unhappy with their relationship.

All of this economic pressure affected how mothers and fathers parented. Those who experienced increased psychological distress as a result of economic strain tended to become harsher in their parenting style, showing less warmth to their children. This was found irrespective of the level of education the parents had.

This then led children to feel less happy and more anxious. They also tended to display poorer conduct.

This worsening conduct, along with emotional symptoms such as anxiety, led to lower educational test scores. It will only be known if these effects persisted when future GUI results are assessed.

The findings were presented by Prof Layte at a major conference for researchers hosted by TCD and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

Speaking at the conference, Prof Layte pointed out that the GUI study provides ‘key data on child development and what contributes to healthier, happier and better educated individuals'.

"As the economy improves we need to think carefully about investing for the future. Ireland's prosperity depends on having an educated, creative and competitive workforce. By investing in children and young people we will be developing healthier, happier and more productive adults for all our tomorrows - and saving money in the process," he commented.

The conference, which was attended by 300 researchers from all over the world, took place in Dublin Castle.


[Posted: Tue 20/10/2015]

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