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Mother holding little boy with sad face.

The relationship between parenting and poverty

Over the last couple of weeks news publications have been talking about a recent report by the End Child Poverty coalition of charities that highlights “an emerging child poverty crisis.”

Analysts say that the biggest increases in child poverty in the past two years have occurred in areas already identified as deprivation hotspots – Bethnal Green and Bow, Poplar and Limehouse in East London, and Ladywood and Hodge Hill in Birmingham; where children are now more likely than not to grow up poor.

In 25 constituencies – mostly in London, Birmingham and Greater Manchester – more than 40 per cent of children now live below the poverty line. And it’s not just children who are struggling with poverty…so, too, are their mums and dads. Prof Donald Hirsch, of Loughborough University, who carried out the study, said of the statistics highlighted in the report that there are hard times ahead for the poorest families in areas most reliant on benefits and tax credits. And with the cost of living on the increase, single parent families are likely to face increasing levels of child poverty.

Writing about the relationship between parenting and poverty for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, researchers note that:

  • Parents who are stressed are less likely to be able to provide optimal home circumstances and more likely to use coercive and harsh methods of discipline.
  • Changes in income and poverty status were significantly associated with maternal depression in the first three years of children’s lives.
  • Problems have been shown to increase when low-income families suffer stress such as absence of a supportive partner, depression or drug use, and to improve when families enjoy social support from family friends or neighbours.
  • The whole range of parenting styles is to be found in all socio-economic groups. While there may be differences in economic means for different groups, it is not true to say that income determines parenting style.
  • Although most research has found higher levels of maltreatment and a lack of parenting capacity in lower SES parents, it also finds that most parents of low SES – even the poorest parents – show remarkable resilience and parenting capacity

Thirty-one per of parents on lower incomes have skipped a meal so that their children could eat during the school holidays. Imagine how difficult it might be to make good decisions when you are anxious,  hungry and cold. Kids Matter offers support to families facing disadvantages. We recognise that confident, competent parenting plays an important part in bridging the gap (between parent and child) created by poverty but that it doesn’t fix everything. We hope to be a part of a larger nation-wide effort to combat poverty and the effect it has on our families.

Give us courage, Lord, to stand up and be counted,
To stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.
(Diocese of Newcastle)

Sources: – “Most children in UK’s poorest areas now growing up in poverty”

The relationship between parenting and poverty Ilan Katz, Judy Corlyon, Vincent La Placa and Sarah Hunter, JRF, 2007

‘Isolation and Hunger: the impact of the school holidays on struggling families’, Kelloggs,

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