TWO out of five of all nine-year-olds in Ireland have said they were bullied in the past 12 months, a major new study has revealed.
It also found one in five children (19%) were overweight, with a further 7% described as obese and that children whose parents had weight problems were three times more likely to be overweight or obese;
It also found wide inequality based on their family’s socio-economic status.
The findings are contained in the first large-scale report of the ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ study, which is tracking the lives of 8,500 nine-year-olds in Ireland. The study interviewed the 8,500 nine-year-olds well as their families, teachers, school principals and other carers.
Overall, the report highlights how the vast majority of children are living largely contented lives with good access to health, education and recreation and a good relationship with their parents, siblings, friends and teachers.
However, Professor James Williams, co-director of Growing Up in Ireland, said the finding that 40% of nine-year-olds had reported being bullied in the past year was a cause for concern.
Yet a large proportion of the children’s mothers appeared to be unaware of the problem, as just 23% said they knew that their child had been the victim of bullying
Prof Williams said that either parents were unaware of such bullying or they defined bullying differently to their children.
The report indicates a strong relationship between their own weight and that of their parents with one-third of all children of obese parents being obese themselves.
Nevertheless, all but 2% of children were described by their mothers as being in good health generally, despite the fact that 11% were reported as having a chronic illness.
A child’s academic performance based on standard reading and maths tests also varied by social class, income and parent’s educational levels.
The report shows that just over 82% of nine-year-olds are living with both parents, with around one in five living in lone-parent households. It also highlighted how two-parent families are three times more likely to be in the higher income group than single-parent ones.
Most of the children are based in families whose parents have adopted what is generally regarded as the optimal “authoritative” parenting style – a combination of high control and high support.
However, 11% of mothers admitted they occasionally smacked their child, although somewhat higher levels were reported by children themselves.
Boys were generally found to be more physically active than girls, although they also reported higher levels of absenteeism from school.
Launching the report, the Minister for Children Barry Andrews said he was pleased to see that children in Ireland continue to have positive health, educational and emotional outcomes.
However, Mr Andrews acknowledged that there were wide variations in some outcomes based on the income and social class of a child’s family.
The minister also said he had recently consulted with the Irish Cellular Industry Association to see what restrictions could be placed on access to the internet to counter the relatively new threat of cyber-bullying.
The report, which is being led by researchers at the Economic and Social Research Institute and Trinity College Dublin, is also following the progress of 10,500 nine-month-olds.
The 150-page study published yesterday is the first in a series of 20 planned pieces of research due to be completed over the next three years.
Prof Williams said the issue of finance and the amount of pocket money available to nine-year-old would be examined in subsequent reports.
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