Children’s mental health is being jeopardised by financial pressures on parents, overcrowded housing, and lack of safe green spaces, says new research by Centre for Mental Health.
Commissioned by Impact on Urban Health, Growing stronger together set out to better understand behavioural problems in children – among the most common childhood mental health problems. It finds that while parents are commonly blamed for their child’s behavioural challenges, these are often caused by exposure to multiple risks – such as poverty and financial strain, racism, and inadequate and overcrowded housing. The research also reveals that while parents and carers play a key role in children’s healthy social development, ‘the cost of living crisis and other financial pressures are putting families under strain as they struggle to make ends meet’.
Although behavioural problems during childhood are ‘normal and often fleeting’, the report highlights that some children and young people ‘can get stuck in challenging patterns of behaviour which affect their social, emotional and learning outcomes’. This in turn puts a child at risk of poorer outcomes, including school exclusion.
Growing stronger together heard from parents in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark highlighting the struggle to support their children’s wellbeing while working long hours to make ends meet, or living in overcrowded, insecure housing.
The report calls for national Government to commit to ending child poverty through a Child Poverty Act, and to increase local council funding to invest in parenting programmes and address the housing crisis. It also calls on local councils to develop an overarching strategy to support children and families impacted by trauma presenting with behavioural problems.
Kadra Abdinasir, associate director of Policy at Centre for Mental Health (pictured), said: “Children’s mental health is getting progressively poorer in the UK. Our report shows children’s healthy social development depends on having their basic needs met – enough money to live on, a safe, warm home, and loving relationships. For families facing deprivation, destitution, and discrimination, it’s a struggle to provide these and give their children a mentally healthy start in life. When children then struggle in school, they get labelled as having behavioural problems, punished, and sometimes excluded, all of which makes things worse. This urgently needs to change. Every child deserves a mentally healthy start in life and a fair chance in school.”