Children whose parents are from poorer backgrounds are more likely to suffer from mental health problems, according to new research from the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) in conjunction with the Centre for Mental Health.
Researchers examining the mental health of 11-year-old children living in the UK found that gender is also a risk factor – with hyperactivity, behavioural and peer problems as well as emotional issues occurring more frequently in boys.
Other factors include geography: for instance, 11-year-olds in Scotland have a significantly lower prevalence of hyperactivity and peer problems than those in the rest of the UK. Not living with both natural parents can also contribute to mental health problems in children.
The research highlights ethnicity as a further factor, with white boys more likely to suffer from hyperactivity and behaviour problems than other groups. For girls, children of mixed ethnic background were most at risk of experiencing these problems.
The ongoing three-year study funded by the ESRC, currently in its first year, is being carried out by Leslie Morrison Gutman, Heather Joshi and Ingrid Schoon from the Institute along with Michael Parsonage from the Centre for Mental Health. It focuses on the incidence and prevalence of mental health problems in children, using data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), which has followed a cohort of children born in 2000-01 from birth and their families.
Dr Gutman, Research Director in the Department of Social Science, IOE said: "Socio-economic differences are clearly a factor in mental health among children. There is also some evidence to suggest that this link between mental health and income has become more pronounced in recent years, and has more of an impact on children than adults."
The research was highlighted at an event, 'Children Mental Health: Trends, Contrasts and Outcomes', which took place last week as part of the annual Economic and Social Research Council's (ESRC) Festival of Social Science.