Poverty and children’s personal and social relationships: summary

Document type
Gibb, Jen; Rix, Katie; Wallace, Emma
Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Date of publication
30 March 2016
Children and Young People, Poverty Alleviation Welfare Benefits and Financial Inclusion
Social welfare
Material type

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In the ongoing debate about how to measure and address poverty in the UK, it is crucial to understand how living with low income affects children.

While the evidence base is fairly strong in areas like education and health, poverty’s role in shaping relationships is less well understood. This research explores associations between poverty and children’s relationships, using Millennium Cohort Study data.

Key points:

  • Overall, eleven-year-olds reported positive relationships with their peers, though one in six described being bullied on a weekly basis.
  • Poverty, especially persistent poverty, was associated with more problematic interaction with peers, on several measures.
  • 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.

Overall, family poverty played a limited direct role in predicting the quality of children’s relationships at age eleven. Initial analyses showed that poverty – particularly if persistent – had significant, largely negative associations for relationships. However, after adjusting for background factors through further analyses, few of these associations remained significant.

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