Most Welsh children get off to healthy start despite relatively high poverty rate

15 October 2010

The Millennium generation of Welsh children may not have had the easiest start in life but most of them appear to be in excellent health and they have many friends, a new report suggests.

Children born in Wales at the beginning of the new century are more likely to be living below the poverty line than youngsters in most other parts of the UK, researchers at the Institute of Education, University of London, have found.

One in three Welsh seven-year-olds (33%) was in a family estimated to be living on less than 60 per cent of the UK’s average national household income.  In Scotland, which has the lowest poverty rate, only just over one in four of the Millennium families (26%) had such a low income. However, some English regions had higher poverty rates than Wales: the North East (40%), other northern regions (35%) and London (36%).

The survey of 14,000 children, carried out as part of the Millennium Cohort Study, also found that seven-year-olds in Wales are less likely than children in other UK countries to be living with married natural parents. Only just over half (51%) of Welsh seven-year-olds are in such families, compared with 61 per cent in Northern Ireland, 55 per cent in England and 53 per cent in Scotland. Almost one in four (23%) is being brought up by a lone mother.

However, children in Wales – and Northern Ireland – are more likely than seven-year-olds in England and Scotland to say they have “lots of” friends. More than two thirds (68%) of them report they have many friends, compared with a UK average of 63 per cent.

Another positive finding is that almost two-thirds (63%) of the 2,000 Welsh mothers surveyed described their child’s health as excellent. This is a slightly higher proportion than in England and Northern Ireland (both 59%).

Nevertheless, Welsh children are the most likely to be involved in an accident requiring a hospital visit or local surgical treatment between the ages of five and seven. The study found that in Wales there had been 3.5 accidents for every 10 children while in Northern Ireland there had been only 2.5.

Sixteen per cent of Welsh children are classified as overweight at age 7 and just over 7 per cent as obese. The equivalent figures for the other UK countries are: Northern Ireland (17% and 8%), Scotland (15% and 5%) and England (14% and 6%).                                                                                              

The study is tracking children born between 2000 and 2002. Its latest survey, which was conducted in 2008/9, also found that:

  •  Seven-year-olds in Wales are least likely to have a regular bedtime – only 57 per cent of them do, compared with 62 per cent in Northern Ireland.
  • Welsh mothers are the most likely to take part in a musical activity with their child every day – 36 per cent, compared with 31 per cent in England. Welsh children are also slightly more likely than children in other parts of the UK to enjoy listening to or playing music. Sixty per cent are enthusiastic about music at age 7, compared with 55 per cent in England.
  • Fathers in Wales are least likely to read to their child daily – 13 per cent do so, compared with 20 per cent in Scotland. However, Welsh fathers are the most likely to play physically active games with their child every day.
  • Just over three in four of the children (77%) spoke no Welsh at home or school. Fourteen per cent spoke Welsh at school only, 8 per cent spoke it at home and school, and 1 per cent used the language only at home.

The findings appear in a report published today by the Institute of Education’s Centre for Longitudinal Studies: Millennium Cohort Study, Fourth Survey: A User’s Guide to Initial Findings. Copies of the report can be downloaded from (from 10am on Friday, October 15).

Further information from:

David Budge

(off) 020 7911 5349

(mob) 07811 415362

Notes for editors:

  1. The Millennium Cohort Study has been tracking the Millennium children through their early childhood and plans to follow them into adulthood. It covers such diverse topics as parenting; childcare; school choice; child behaviour and cognitive development; child and parental health; parents’ employment and education; income; housing; and neighbourhood. It is the first of the nationwide cohort studies to over-sample areas with high densities of ethnic minorities and large numbers of disadvantaged families. Previous surveys of the cohort were carried out when the children were aged nine months, three years and five years. The study is housed at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the Institute of Education. It was commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council, whose funding has been supplemented by a consortium of government departments.
  2. Data from the fieldwork for the fourth survey of the Millennium cohort (MCS4) are now available from the UK Data Archive The contract for data collection in MCS is awarded under competitive tender to specialist agencies. For three of the four surveys undertaken to date the data collection was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research.  The agency responsible for the second round of data collection was Gfk-NOP.
  3. The poverty calculation takes into account the number of people in a household.
  4. Only resident fathers were interviewed in the MCS survey.
  5. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s planned total expenditure in 2009/10 is £204 million. At any one time the ESRC supports more than 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.
  6. The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London that specialises in education and related areas of social science and professional practice. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise two-thirds of the publications that the IOE submitted were judged to be internationally significant and over a third were judged to be “world leading”. The Institute was recognised by Ofsted in 2010 for its “high quality” initial teacher training programmes that inspire its students “to want to be outstanding teachers”. The IOE is a member of the 1994 group, which brings together 19 internationally renowned, research-intensive universities.

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