Parents living on a low income are under stress

A new review of research on families living on a low income finds that the recent recession has generated additional burdens for parents in these circumstances, including increased time pressures, a decline in nutrition, and higher stress levels. The review, Parenting on a Low Income, conducted by About Families, finds that women in particular bear the burden of coping.

Key findings

  • Parents experiencing financial hardship ‘do without’ everyday necessities, social activities, and holidays – putting a strain on parenting and family relationships.
  • Living on a low income can bring multiple stresses such as food and fuel poverty, debt, dispossession, and restricted social opportunities – affecting family relationships, harming parents’ physical and mental health, and contributing to feelings of stigma, isolation, and exclusion for the whole family.
  • The benefits system is often a significant source of confusion and stress, and many families do not receive all the benefits to which they are entitled.
  • People on low incomes increasingly tend to live alongside others who are materially disadvantaged. Deprived neighbourhoods have inadequate housing and a lack of basic amenities and services, all of which can contribute to stress. Balancing safety with opportunities for children’s development adds to pressure for parents. However, more families on low incomes live outside deprived areas than in them, meaning that localised policies alone will not tackle poverty.

The report highlights a range of measures that would help parents on low incomes, including affordable childcare, support in accessing benefits, and more involvement by parents in service planning.

About Families is an alliance of organisations in Scotland working with families, especially those affected by disability.

The report (Karen Mountney, Parenting on a Low Income, About Families) is available on the About Families website. A summary is also available.