7 Nov 2011

Materially deprived children are five times more likely to be unhappy than their peers, new research published by The Children’s Society reveals.

Missing Out: A child centred analysis of material deprivation and subjective well-being shows, for the first time, the things children say they need for a ‘normal kind of life’(1) and gives a clear insight into how children experience material deprivation. The report pinpoints ten items including family holidays, access to a garden or outdoor space and a personal music player.

Children most commonly lacked pocket money, with more than a third (37%) not receiving it each week. This was also the item that was most frequently ‘missed’, with 22 per cent of children wanting pocket money but not receiving it. Together with the second most commonly missed item, money to save each month, the findings suggest that children want some degree of financial autonomy and independence.

They also ‘missed’ monthly trips or days out with family or a family holiday every year, highlighting that many children want to spend more time with their family.

Children who wanted items or experiences but did not have them reported much higher levels of unhappiness. Thirty four percent of children without the right clothes to fit in with their peers were unhappy, followed by children without cable/satellite TV (28%), access to a garden or outdoor space (26%) and a family car (25%).

Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: 'Too often we try to understand what it means to be poor from the perspective of parents and ignore the children.  For the first time, this research asks children themselves what they need to live a normal kind of life.

'It shows that many children are missing out on normal, everyday things, like pocket money, or trips out with their family. Children have shown us they have a clear idea of what makes them happy, and those missing out on these items are much unhappier than their peers.'

The charity argues that measuring children’s experiences of material deprivation is a better predictor of unhappiness than conventional methods, such as household income, the number of adults in paid work and receipt of free school meals.

The findings also highlight the risk that materially deprived children could be living in households not commonly classified as poor, running the risk of being left out of research and political measures to address child poverty.

The Children's Society measures the ‘well-being’ of children every three months in collaboration with the University of York. This is part of the most comprehensive research programme in the UK into children and young people’s own accounts of their well-being.

Ends

For more information, please contact David Dinnage in The Children’s Society’s media team on 0207 841 4422, 07775 600582 or david.dinnage@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out of hours enquiries please call 07810 796508

Notes to editors

  • The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life.

(1) In September 2010, focus groups were conducted with 36 eight-15 year olds to ask about the possessions and experiences that are part of ‘a normal kind of life’ for someone their age. Based on these interviews, a list of 20 items was drawn up that take account of children and young people’s perspectives on their material needs.

The items were then piloted with a sample of 300 children and their parents to see how they related to conventional measures of material circumstances. Using statistical analysis of the pilot data, the number of items in the list was reduced to ten.