Northern Irish mothers ‘most likely to read to their children every day’

17 October 2008

Mothers in Northern Ireland are more likely to read to their children every day than mothers in other UK countries, new research suggests.

Embargoed until 00:01hrs, Friday, October 17

Mothers in Northern Ireland are more likely to read to their children every day than mothers in other UK countries, new research suggests.

Sixty-one per cent of Northern Irish mothers reported reading to their five-year-old children daily, compared to 50 per cent of mothers in Wales. The equivalent figures for England and Scotland were 52 per cent and 56 per cent.

Fathers in Northern Ireland also appear to be slightly more likely to read to their five-year-olds every day. More than one in five (21 per cent) said they did so, compared to 20 per cent of Scottish fathers and 15 per cent of fathers in England and Wales.

The findings on parent-and-child reading have emerged from a study conducted by researchers at the Institute of Education, University of London, which is tracking more than 15,000 children who were born in the first two years of the new millennium.

The researchers say that the 1,500 mothers and 1,000 fathers in Northern Ireland they surveyed were also more likely to say they had sufficient time with their child even though they were as likely to have jobs as parents in other UK countries.

Their life satisfaction was also slightly higher than that of parents in the rest of the UK even though the Northern Irish families surveyed were least likely to be in the top-fifth income bracket. Seventy-nine per cent of mothers and 82 per cent of fathers in Northern Ireland rated themselves in the high life satisfaction category.

The study also found that mothers in Northern Ireland were most likely to be receiving treatment for depression or serious anxiety (12%), while mothers in England were least likely (7%). However, mothers in Scotland were most likely ever to have been diagnosed with this condition (44%). Northern Irish mothers were the least likely to have received this diagnosis (40%).

“The generally positive findings for Northern Ireland represent one of the intriguing threads we have picked up while conducting this study,” says Professor Heather Joshi, director of the Millennium Cohort Study, which is based at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies.

“It is not obvious whether this might be related to the higher rates of self-employment in Northern Ireland, rural environments or the greater stability of partnerships, the greater use of childcare, or membership of religious groups. Our research will shed further light on this issue in the years to come.”

The findings are presented in a report to be published today by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, Millennium Cohort Study Third Survey: A User’s Guide to Initial Findings www. The report can be downloaded from the Centre’s website after 9am today (October 17).

Further information:

David Budge
(off) 020 7911 5349
(mob) 07881 415362

Editors’ footnotes:

1. The Centre for Longitudinal Studies is an Economic and Social Research Council Resource Centre and is devoted to the collection, management and analysis of large-scale longitudinal data. The Centre houses three internationally-renowned birth cohort studies: the 1958 National Child Development Study, the 1970 British Cohort Study and the Millennium Cohort Study. The MCS 3 survey was co-funded by government departments in the four UK countries.

2. The third survey of the UK-wide Millennium Cohort Study took place, mostly in 2006, when the children had reached age 5. It involved 15,246 families and 15,460 children because some families had either twins or triplets. Previous surveys of the families had taken place when the children were aged 9 months, in 2001-2, and when they were three years old, mostly during 2004. The study was designed to over-sample families living in electoral wards with high child poverty rates, and in areas of high ethnic minority concentration in England.

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