Fiscal crises and personal troubles: the great recession in Ireland and family processes
Social disadvantage is often associated with worse child psychological adjustment which itself is implicated in educational failure and poor adult social position. The family stress model holds that the association between social disadvantage and psychological adjustment stems from the impact of economic pressure on parental mental health mediated through the parent/child relationship.
We take advantage of a natural experiment offered by the ‘great recession’ in Ireland between 2008 and 2012. Structural equation models using causal modelling and Longitudinal data from the Growing Up in Ireland cohort study are used to test whether the experience of recession in families impacts on children’s psychological adjustment and whether this occurs directly or is mediated by the processes identified in the family stress model.
More than 70% of families experienced a reduction in income between 2008 and 2011 and 26% reported cutting back on basics such as clothing and food. Family experience of recession was significantly associated with negative change in all of the components of the family stress model, particularly parental mental health. However, less than half of the effect of recession was mediated by the processes of the family stress model. Tests showed that a model with a direct effect of recession on child psychological adjustment provided a better fit to the data.
Recession and economic pressure had a significant effect on child psychological adjustment, but only a minority of this effect was indirect via the mental health of parents and parent/child relationship. The family stress model only offers a partial account of the mechanisms through which economic hardship impacts on families and children.
KeywordsChildren Health selection Economic recession Psychological adjustment
This work was supported by the Lifepath Project, which is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (grant 633666).
Compliance with ethical standards
The study received ethical approval from the Research Ethics Committee of the Office for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in Ireland and have therefore been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.
- 2.Blandon J, Machin S (2008) Up and down the generational income ladder in Britain: past changes and future prospects national. Inst Econ Rev 205(1):15Google Scholar
- 6.Strachan D, Sheikh A (2004) A life course approach to respiratory and allergic diseases. In: Kuh D, Ben-Shlomo Y (eds) A life course approach to chronic disease epidemiology. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- 19.Brody GH, Stoneman Z, Flor D, McCrary C, Hastings L, Conyers O (1994) Financial resources, parent psychological functioning, parent co-caregiving, and early adolescent competence in rural two-parent African-American families. Child Dev 65:15Google Scholar
- 22.Conger RD, Elder GHJ (1994) Families in troubled times: adapting to change in rural America. Aldine De Gruyter, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- 27.Thornton M, Williams J, McCrory C, Murray A, Quail A (2010) Design, Instrumentation and Procedures for the Child Cohort (at 9 years). Technical Report Series. Department of Children and Youth Affairs, DublinGoogle Scholar
- 30.Mathai J, Anderson P, Bourne A (2003) Use of the strengths and difficulties questionnaire as an outcome measure in a child and adolescent mental health service. Australas Psychiatry 11:4Google Scholar
- 32.Pianta RC (1992) Beyond the parent: the role of other adults in children’s lives. Jossey-Bass, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
- 40.Cunha F, Heckman JJ (2008) Formulating, identifying and estimating the technology of cognitive and non-cognitive skill formation. J Hum Resour 43(4):45Google Scholar