Childhood deprivation linked to adult social exclusion

Children from economically deprived families are more likely to be socially excluded as adults, finds a study from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies.

The study involved analysing data from more than 7,000 members of the 1970 British Cohort Study, and tracking six risk factors: poor physical and mental health; lack of emotional support from friends and family, and of trust in others; little or no interest or engagement in politics; having a low income, debts, or not having savings; limited access to good-quality public services; and being unemployed.

Key findings

  • Childhood economic deprivation – measured by factors such as income poverty and being on free school meals – increases the likelihood of being socially excluded as an adult.
  • Economic deprivation is also the strongest predictor of emotional problems, poor educational attainment and engagement in deviant behaviour in adolescence, which themselves increase the risk of social exclusion in adulthood.
  • The effect of economic deprivation on educational attainment is the most detrimental to adult social well-being. Children who experienced any form of disadvantage before the age of 10 were less likely than their more affluent peers to do well in school at age 16 and more likely to engage in deviant behaviour, such as drug abuse. They were also less likely to have higher qualifications by age 30, such as a university degree or diploma.
  • Family socio-demographic risks in childhood – such as being born to a single mother or spending time in local authority care before age five – did not have a direct effect on adult social exclusion, but they did increase the likelihood of engaging in deviant behaviour in adolescence.

Source: Agnese Peruzzi, From Childhood Deprivation to Adult Social Exclusion: Evidence from the 1970 British Cohort Study, Working paper 2013/5, Centre for Longitudinal Studies (University of London)
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