Children born to younger mothers may need additional government support if they are to fulfil their potential, a new report suggests.
Researchers who are tracking the development of youngsters born in the UK between 2000 and 2002 have found that children with younger mothers have had a much more difficult start in life, on average, than those with older parents.
Their comparison of seven-year-olds with mothers aged under 30 or over 40 reveals that children with younger mothers are:
Researchers at the Institute of Education, University of London, who analysed information gathered on more than 14,000 children taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study, found that those with younger mothers have also had to cope with far more upheaval than other children during their first seven years. Four in ten children with mothers aged under 30 (39%) experienced a significant family change, such as the arrival of a stepfather, compared with only 13 per cent of youngsters with mothers aged 40 and over.
“Living apart from natural fathers can be associated with poverty and negative outcomes for children,” says Lisa Calderwood, of the Institute’s Centre for Longitudinal Studies. “As these experiences are particularly concentrated among children of young mothers these findings provide support for policies aimed at reducing teenage pregnancy. They also indicate that families with young parents may benefit from further targeted government support.”
The study’s latest survey, conducted in 2008/9, shows that ethnic background, as well as mother’s age, is strongly related to the type of family a child is brought up in. About nine in ten Indian (89%) and Bangladeshi (90%) seven-year-olds were living with both natural parents who were, in almost all cases, married to each other. By contrast, black Caribbean children were the most likely to be living in a lone-parent family (50%) and were the least likely to have married natural parents (23%).
Overall, just over one in five of the Millennium children (22%) were living in a lone-mother family and over one in twenty (6 per cent) were being brought up by a natural mother and stepfather. Around seven in ten children (69%) were living with both natural parents, with just over half (55%) living with married natural parents.
The proportion of children living with married natural parents was considerably higher in Northern Ireland (61%) than in England (55%), Scotland (53%) and Wales (51%).
The study’s latest report also shows that the proportion of children living with both natural parents has been declining steadily. At age nine months 86 per cent of children were with both natural parents. This dropped to 77 per cent at age 5 and to 69 per cent at age 7.
The findings appear in a report published today by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies: Millennium Cohort Study, Fourth Survey: A User’s Guide to Initial Findings. Copies of the report can be downloaded from www.cls.ioe.ac.uk/MCSFindings (from 10am on Friday, October 15).
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