Nine-year-olds and their families were affected by recession, new research says

Growing Up in Ireland today has published their findings on the lives of nine-year-olds and how they have changed in the last four years.  

At the age of nine, a child is settled in primary school and their lives are fairly quiet - pressure from exams hasn't hit yet with their move to secondary school. 

However, this group of 9-year-olds spent much of their early years in a period of great economic instability as Ireland was in the grips of the Great Recession. 

So first, let's look at how family circumstances changed. 

Since 2013, there was a doubling in the number of families who had difficulty between the time the child was 9 months old in 2008/09 and the time the child was 5 years old in 2013 (from 12% to 25%). The figure had dropped to 12% by 2017-18 when the child was nine

When it comes to education, 9-year-olds had positive attitudes generally to school although there had been a drop in reading for fun since 2007 among children in low-income families, with 77% being from highest-income families and 62% coming from lowest-income families. 

The voluntary contribution that parents are encouraged to pay yearly was paid by more than half the mothers.

 59% paid, 7% were asked for a contribution but did not pay and 34% were not asked for a contribution.

Interestingly, 24% of families in the highest income group paid a voluntary contribution of €100 or more, compared to 5% of families in the lowest income group.

What about their physical health? 

According to the findings, one-in-eight 9-year-olds were hampered by a longstanding health condition or disability.

Although 77% didn't have a longstanding condition,10% had a condition and were considered to be hampered to some extent. 

The most common illnesses were things like asthma, ADHD and skin conditions.

Obesity was no a problem with only 17% were overweight and 5% obese. Diet was generally healthy but a lot of treat foods still featured. 

Eating fruit was higher in this research than in the one in 2007- 57% vs. 38%.

Only one-quarter reported being physically active for at least 60 minutes every single day, slightly more boys then girls.

We're all guilty of too much screen time but how did these kids fare?

Over 90% of 9-year-olds spent at least some time watching TV/DVDs on both weekend and weekdays.

Mums said that 23% of 9-year-olds had an online profile however they ahd rules to manage the amount of time spent on the screen with 59% of mothers reported engaging the child in alternative activities to reduce screen time.

Emotional and behavioural difficulties do improve over time.

The kids who had been classified as having more socio-emotional and behavioural problems at age 5 were more likely to have such problems at age 9 (45% vs. just 7% of those not classified as having a high level of problems at age 5).

Between 3 and 9 years of age, there was even more change, with 3% of children identified as having a high level of socio-emotional and behavioural difficulties at all three ages (3, 5 and 9 years) but a much larger group (21%) had them at one or two of the ages, but not all three.

This suggests that such difficulties may often change over time. 

Food for though, isn't it? 

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