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Financial strain and material deprivation linked to increased child behavioral difficulties
Exposure to financial strain and material deprivation rather than reduced household income are linked to the development of child behavioral difficulties, according to a new study conducted by researchers in the Department of Sociology, Trinity College Dublin.
The research investigated how child behavioral difficulties were affected by three different measures of economic hardship—household income, financial strain, and material deprivation.
The researchers found that the experience of increased financial strain was associated with higher externalized behavioral difficulties among adolescents (e.g. conduct difficulties, hyperactivity and/or inattention).
In addition, increased material deprivation was associated with internalized behavioral difficulties (e.g. anxiety, depression, being solitary), among primary school-aged boys.
Surprisingly, change in income had no effect on child behavioral difficulties.
These findings, according to the authors, show that it is not the change in income that affects adolescent children's development behavioral difficulties, but rather households' perception of 'being under financial strain." While for younger children the material effects of deprivation have the greatest consequences. Furthermore, the research indicates that all households, even ones that are not regarded as low income, can experience negative effects of economic hardship.
The study was published recently in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence and drew on data from the Growing Up in Ireland study collected in the period before, during and after Ireland's Great Recession (2011/2012).
Lead author, Ryan Alberto Gibbons, Ph.D. candidate at Trinity's Sociology Department said, "By drawing on data from the Great Recession in Ireland, a period of great economic fluctuation, we were able to ascertain how changing economic well-being within households affected the behavioral development of children.
"Our findings indicate that children react differently depending on the type of household economic change. We found that financial strain and material deprivation affected children's behavioral outcomes and this change was irrespective of household income. Surprisingly, our findings indicate that change in a household's income had no meaningful effect on children's behavioral outcomes.
"The results of our study suggests that more nuanced measures of economic hardship are required in order to accurately understand not just the financial, but also the psycho-social effects of economic hardship on households and their children.
"This is of particular relevance in the midst of a global cost-of-living crisis, where rising costs are increasing financial strain for households whose incomes are otherwise not low. For example, policy approaches aimed at helping people with their expenses without increasing incomes directly could be an important means of tackling the negative effect of financial hardship on child outcomes."
More information: Ryan Alberto Gibbons et al, Growing Up in the Great Recession: The Effects of Three Dimensions of Economic Well-being on Child Behavioral Difficulties from Ages 3 to 17, Journal of Youth and Adolescence (2023). DOI: 10.1007/s10964-022-01721-2
Journal information: Journal of Youth and Adolescence
Provided by Trinity College Dublin