Home > Growing up in Ireland National Longitudinal Study of Children. How families matter for social and emotional outcomes of 9-year-old children.

Nixon, Elizabeth (2012) Growing up in Ireland National Longitudinal Study of Children. How families matter for social and emotional outcomes of 9-year-old children. Dublin: Government Publications.

[img] PDF (How families matter for social and emotional outcomes) - Published Version
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This report is concerned with how families matter for the social and emotional outcomes of nine-year-olds in the Growing Up in Ireland study. The analysis considers how these outcomes relate to the characteristics of both the child and the child’s family. Data were collected from teachers and mothers on children’s social, emotional and behavioural problems using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Data on child characteristics, the quality of the parent-child relationship, parental depression, and marital satisfaction were gathered from mothers and fathers, while children reported on mothers’ and fathers’ parenting styles. Data on family structure and income levels were also included in the analysis. The findings presented are based on tests of associations among variables and interpretation requires caution about inferring causality to these relationships.

The findings indicate that the majority of nine-year-olds are developing well without any significant social, emotional or behavioural problems. However, based on mother and teacher reports, approximately 15% to 20% of children were classified as displaying significant levels of difficulty. Girls were more likely than boys to have problems of an emotional nature, while boys were more likely than girls to have problems of a behavioural nature, and to display more difficulties overall. Having a chronic illness or a learning and development difficulty (as reported by mothers) was associated with higher levels of social and emotional problems. Children with temperaments characterised by higher levels of emotionality and lower levels of sociability also displayed more negative outcomes. Together, these findings indicate that certain inherent characteristics render some children more vulnerable than others to poor social and emotional outcomes.

Parenting styles and the quality of mother-child and father-child relationships were also associated with social and emotional outcomes. Children whose parents used an authoritarian parenting style (characterised by low levels of responsiveness and high levels of control) had more difficulty, as did children whose parents were neglectful (low responsiveness and low control). In addition, high levels of mother-child and father-child conflict were associated with elevated levels of difficulty, while low levels of closeness in the mother-child relationship were important for girls’ but not boys’ social and emotional outcomes. Father-child closeness was not associated with children’s social and emotional outcomes.

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