We were commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) to carry out a study that looks at the impact of poverty on children’s lives in the UK, in partnership with the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) at the UCL Institute of Education.
We wanted to find out what role, if any, low income plays in shaping the quality of children's relationships with parents, peers and siblings.
Using data from the Age 11 sweep of the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS5), our research explored the links between poverty and children's relationships with their peers and parents. MCS5 is made up of a sample of over 13,000 children, and measures both children's and parents' feelings about their relationships, and children's experience of their relationships with their peers.
The large sample allowed us to detect much smaller effects of poverty than has been possible in previous research.
We produced a final report and a JRF findings summary in March 2016. These highlighted that:
- While poverty was associated with more problematic interaction with peers, children with experience of poverty were just as likely to be happy with their friends.
- Poverty was also associated with aspects of parent-child relationships. Those from less-well-off families reported slightly lower levels of communication and closeness and higher levels of conflict.
- Poverty’s effects on children’s relationships appeared to be mostly indirect. A broad range of risk factors were more likely to affect those from low-income homes, including maternal mental health problems, low levels of parental education, lower cognitive ability and special educational needs.