Trinity College Dublin researchers publish report on second-generation migrant children and their families

Aug 07, 2014

Dr Antje Röder and colleagues from the Department of Sociology, Trinity College Dublin, published the report 'New Irish Families: A profile of Second Generation Children and their Families', which presents the first results from the Irish Research Council funded project, 'New Irish Families'.

This is one of the first studies in Ireland to focus on children born here to migrant parents, who now make up a large and growing proportion of families in the country. From the experiences of other countries, monitoring this cohort is crucially important in order to raise awareness of the particular challenges they and their families face with a view to informing public policies that must take into account the growing diversity of Irish society. Being aware of the disadvantages and challenges faced by some of the second generation children and their families is a first step, but significant future work will be needed both in research and in policy making as many of the questions raised in this report will continue to be of importance and in some cases even gain greater significance as these children get older.

The report uses information collected as part of the Growing Up in Ireland infant cohort, which includes children and their families born in 2007/8, and examines the position of second-generation migrant children and their families living in Ireland across some key domains in the life of young families.

Key findings of the report

  • Perinatal statistics show that one-in-four children born in Ireland in 2012 had a non-Irish born mother. More than half of these mothers were from EU Accession states. The next largest group were Asian, followed by African.
  • This is reflected in the nine-month-old infant cohort of the Growing Up in Ireland – National Longitudinal Study of Children in Ireland that we examined in this report, who were born in 2008/9. 28.3% of the infants had at least one parent who was not born in Ireland. The largest proportion of these children had at least one parent from the United Kingdom, with parents from EU Accession states being the second largest group.
  • Interestingly, 'mixed' couples with one parent from Ireland and one migrant parent are more frequent than couples made up of two migrants amongst the parents included in the study. This differs hugely between groups, though: mixed couples are most common amongst UK born and 'old' EU member states. They are least common amongst Africans, EU Accession State migrants, and Asians. In such mixed couples, it was also more common that the mother was non-Irish than the father.
  • There is now much greater diversity in terms of religion, linguistic, and ethnic and national background amongst young families in Ireland.
  • Roman Catholicism was the most common religion among migrant mothers and their children. However, a substantial proportion of migrant families belong to another religion such as 'other Christian' denominations (14%), Muslim (6%) and Protestant (4%). 13 per cent of migrant mothers do not belong to any religion. Patterns are similar amongst second generation children, who often have the same religion as their mother.
  • English was the most commonly spoken language in the children's home even when both parents were not Irish. However, more than half of households headed by at least one parent from an EU Accession state did not speak English in the home. The most common languages spoken by these families were Polish (66%), Lithuanian (17%), Russian (9%), and Romanian (5%).
  • The percentage of mothers born outside of Ireland who had Irish citizenship varied greatly. While 72% of mothers from the United Kingdom had Irish citizenship, only 5% of mothers from EU Accession states did. The comparable figure for African mothers was 17%. This partly reflects the more recent arrival of immigrants particularly from the new EU member states after 2004, but also differential access to citizenship for groups based on their migration status, country of origin and ethnic background.
  • Although Irish citizenship is no longer automatically conferred on children born here, 97% of the children in the cohort were Irish citizens. However, only two-thirds of children born in Ireland to a parent from an EU Accession state had Irish citizenship.
  • Mothers born outside of Ireland were on average more highly educated than the native population. Among mothers from EU 15 countries (excluding Ireland and the U.K.), 60% were educated to degree level or higher with 46% of Asian mothers also having at least a third level degree. The comparable figure among Irish mothers was 28%.
  • Despite higher levels of education, households headed by at least one migrant parent from EU Accession states, Asia, or Africa, were more likely to be found in the lower semi- and un-skilled social classes with lower household income and higher risk of poverty. Families with at least one parent from one of the 'old' EU member states, on the other hand, were the most socio-economically advantaged group.
  • Households with mothers from EU Accession states, Asia and Africa, were largely concentrated in Dublin and surrounding areas while families with mothers from the United Kingdom more often lived in rural areas.
  • Second generation children and their families are more likely to live in rented accommodation and apartments rather than houses, and have less access to gardens or other common spaces. The vast majority of immigrant families feel settled and part of their local communities, but less so than Irish families.
  • Childcare is a major challenges for all parents of young children, but findings suggest that this is even more so for immigrant parents who less often have living close by. Second generation children are overall less often in non-parental childcare than their Irish peers. In Ireland, parents with less financial resources tend to rely on relatives to care for their children to allow them to return to work. Socio-economically more privileged migrant groups use centre-based childcare more than Irish parents to compensate for their lack of access to relative care, but this appears not to be an option for less privileged groups who also report greater financial constraints in their childcare choices.
  • This may at least partly explain the finding that Irish mothers are more likely to return to work than migrant mothers by the time their child is 9 months old. The only exception to this is Asian mothers: while over a third did not work before birth (compared to about one fifth of Irish mothers), more than two thirds of those that did work returned.
  • The lowest rate of return to work was observed among mothers from EU Accession States. Among this group, less than one-in-four (24.6%) previously employed mothers had returned to fulltime employment while a further 18.2% had taken up part-time employment having previously worked full-time. This is particularly startling given the very high level of full time labour force participation amongst this group of women before birth.

"There is now much greater diversity amongst young families in Ireland. This brings with it great opportunities, but also challenges that need to be addressed to ensure all children born in Ireland have opportunities to grow up to fulfil their potential. From our study so far it is clear that some groups of migrant parents experience socio-economic disadvantages that are likely to impact their children as they grow older. Another core issue is childcare: immigrant parents have less access to relative care, and many cannot afford other forms of childcare, leading to lower rates of return to work amongst migrant . We cannot say yet to what extent this reflects different cultural preferences for the appropriate care of young , but will continue to investigate this further as the study progresses." said the study's Principal Investigator, Dr Antje Röder.

Explore further: Poor health of Irish immigrants in England may be linked to childhood abuse, study finds

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