Cost of living crisis puts further pressure on parents of under-fives

9 June 2022

A report published by the Nuffield Foundation reviews the changing nature of parenting children aged under five and how the different pressures facing parents can impact young children’s development.

The report finds that parents are increasingly under pressure as a result of expectations, a lack of time, the balance of paid employment and providing care for young children, poverty and inadequate housing. It states that all of these factors can affect the care parents provide and impact children’s development and wellbeing.

The analysis highlights the effect of poverty on children’s outcomes and warns that even before the cost of living crisis, more than one in three (36%) children in families with a child aged under five in the UK were living in poverty.

It also shows how the pandemic has negatively affected parental mental health and increased inter-parental conflict at a time when parents have less access to support. The research found that over 70% of parents of young children reported that being a parent is stressful and that they feel judged as a parent by others. Not all parents received the support that they would like and many faced barriers to accessing help.

The report also finds that some parenting programmes can improve parenting skills and outcomes for children, but such programmes are less likely to succeed if not combined with action to reduce pressure on families, such as improving household incomes.

To close the disadvantage gap and improve children’s outcomes, the report says policies are needed to reduce pressures on families and improve parenting skills, using universal and targeted support.

Carey Oppenheim, Early Childhood Lead at the Nuffield Foundation and co-author of the report, said:

“Parenting matters. Government initiatives to create a network of family hubs, Best Start for Life and investment in parenting programmes are important steps in the right direction. However, parenting programmes form only one component of the support parents need.

“The COVID-19 crisis and the cost of living crisis have made it even more crucial that families with young children are also given more fundamental support, in terms of improved access to mental health services, boosted family incomes and improvements to the physical environments in which children are raised.”

The full report, Time for Parents, brings together research from over 100 studies and is available here.