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Childhood Poverty

Women’s Hour  

10 am Friday 2nd January

Subject: Childhood Poverty, Studio discussion: with Polly Toynbee, Nicholas Hillman Gina Holdsworth

Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown was invited to talk about the role of parenting in childhood poverty.

She outlined the way in which the quality of relationships between parents and children impacts on children’s emotional and social development with demonstrable effects on educational attainment. Children from families where parents have difficulty with nurturing relationships and in boundary setting are also at increased risk of mental health problems, criminality and violence.  They are also likely to experience problems in relating to their peers. All of these, and particularly the last, are important in predicting who will succeed in the workplace. Children whose families are not able to offer them what they need for their development tend to end up in low pay jobs or unemployed and are likely to bring up their own children in poverty.  Although families who have problems with relationships are statistically more likely to live in deprived areas, these problems are also common amongst families in well to do areas. 

Professor Stewart-Brown described some of her research on programmes that can help parents develop more helpful relationships with their children. There is ample research showing that, if these programmes are skilfully facilitated, parents from all walks of life find them helpful and learn things that they value. This is true even of parents who have been mandated to attend courses under parenting orders, suggesting that there may be a role for requiring some parents to attend. However, she was clear that such an approach would only work in the context of universal provision of programmes.