12 Feb 2020

 1 in 10 children aged 14 in the UK have been blighted by poverty throughout their childhood, according to research by The Children’s Society. 

New figures from the charity estimate that around 73,000 14-year-olds are living in persistent poverty. Analysis of the Millennium Cohort Study found 1 in 10 14-year-olds (10%) who took part in the research were from households living below the income poverty line[1] on each of the six occasions when interviews for the study were conducted[2]. This suggests that thousands of children have grown up knowing nothing but hard times, with their families struggling to pay the bills and provide basic items such as food, clothing, toys and books.  

A further estimated 153,000, or around one in five (21%), 14-year-olds have grown up in homes experiencing intermittent poverty.[3] 

The charity is deeply concerned about the effects this could be having on young people’s wellbeing. The research found that, of the children who had experienced poverty at any of the six points considered between the ages of 0 and 14, one in eight (12%) had low life satisfaction, meaning they were unhappy with their life as a whole. One in six (16%) also had high symptoms of depression, such as feeling miserable or unhappy, like no-one really loves them, or that they did everything wrong. 

In comparison, one in twelve (8%) of those children aged 14 who had never experienced income poverty were unhappy with their lives and one in eight (12%) had high depressive symptoms. 

The Children’s Society has also looked at the well-being of children when their family is under financial strain. The survey asked parents how well they were managing financially, with responses ranging from living comfortably to finding it very difficult. 18% of families (an estimated 131,000 14 years olds in the UK) reported experiencing financial strain more than once across the six interviews.    

Once again the results show children aged 14 years, who had any experience of financial strain, were unhappier with their lives and more likely to experience symptoms of depression than peers with no experience of financial strain. The proportions with low life satisfaction were 12% compared to 8% and high depressive symptoms were 17% compared to 12% respectively.

Mark Russell, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: 

“It is scandalous to find out so many children have spent their entire lives growing up in poverty or live in families who regularly struggle to pay the bills and put food on the table. Something must change, especially as this research clearly shows that just one experience, no matter what age it happens, can have a detrimental effect on how satisfied a child feels with their life. 

“We know the start of year is often an extra tough time for families and so it is vital the government makes a renewed commitment to cutting record high levels of child poverty and sets out a brand new action plan. 

“We also believe the government need to look at ways to prevent families from falling into crisis. It is vital they commit to providing long term funding to local welfare assistance schemes. This means that if families do experience financial crisis they are not left with nowhere to turn and with the children left dealing with the long term consequences.” 



 Media enquiries 

For more information, please contact The Children’s Society’s media team on 0207 8414422 or media@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508. 


Notes to editor 

About The Children’s Society

  • The Children’s Society is a national charity that helps the most vulnerable children and young people in Britain today. We run services and campaigns to make children’s lives better and change the systems that are placing them in danger. We listen. We support. We act. Together with our supporters we’re improving the lives of children today and building hope for a better future.

About The Good Childhood Report

  • The Good Childhood Report 2019 is the eighth in a series of annual reports published by The Children's Society about how children in the UK feel about their lives
  • The Good Childhood Report is produced in collaboration with researchers at the University of York
  • The Good Childhood Report uses evidence from a number of sources, including:
    • The Children’s Society household surveys: since 2010, we have conducted regular surveys of 2,000-3,000 households in England, Scotland and Wales with parents and children aged eight to 17. The surveys collect data on the well-being of children and parents, as well as household data such as income and occupations. So far 37,000 children have been involved in 18 waves of the survey – In the 2019 report the data related to children’s thoughts about the future was taken from The Children’s Society’s household surveys (of almost 2,400 children).
    • The Children’s Society schools surveys: since 2008, we have conducted three major schools-based well-being surveys, the last of which was undertaken in 2013-14 as part of the Children’s Worlds international study. To date, these schools surveys have involved over 17,000 children aged 8 to 15. This year the main report utilises a survey with around 650 year 10 students to explore multiple disadvantage.
    • Understanding Society: this longitudinal study involves 40,000 households in the UK and includes questions for children aged 10 to 15. This year’s report uses data from all nine waves of this survey.
    • The Millennium Cohort Study: a longitudinal survey following the lives of children born in the UK in 2000-01. In the 2019 report, we utilise this dataset to look at the link between different types of poverty and children’s well-being.


[1] This is defined as when a household's income is less than 60 per cent of this average. So a couple with two children are living in poverty if after paying housing costs they have less than £58 a day to cover food, bills, childcare, transport, household items, clothes and other expenses like school trips or children’s activities

[2] Research interviews were conducted when the children were aged around nine months, three, five, seven, 11 and 14 years

[3] A child that has lived in persistent poverty is one that who has been living in poverty during two to four of the six data collection points