VIDEO: Recession led to family strife as homeless figures rise

New research shows the impact of the recession on families around Ireland as fresh figures show another rise in the number of people now homeless.

A conference to be held next Tuesday will hear research findings from the Growing Up In Ireland study that indicates the recession put marriages under strain, damaged the relationship between parents and children and increased anxiety levels within families.

The conference, organised by the Economic and social Research Institute (ESRI), will also hear that between 2008 and 2011, household income fell by 16% while unemployment among fathers rose from 5.6% to 13.8%.

The proportion of people reporting that they had some degree of difficulty in ‘making ends meet’ doubled, rising from 31% in 2008 to 61% in 2011, while 29% of mothers reported cutting back on basics, with 8% admitting to being behind with rent or mortgage and 12% being behind with utility bills. The impact of the recession was also pronounced when it came to people’s mental health.

According to the research — and adjusting for family characteristics and other changes that occurred — coming under economic pressure increased the risk of the mother showing clinical levels of depression by 84% compared to mothers who did not come under pressure. The risk for fathers was lower at 61%.

This increased psychological distress resulted in harsher styles of parenting and less warmth, while the relationship between mothers and fathers was highly sensitive to economic strain — they reported more arguments, felt less close and were more likely to report they were unhappy with their relationship.

In addition, worsened relationships between children and parents were associated with higher child anxiety and worse conduct as well as lower child happiness.

All this led to lower educational test scores and the ESRI said more information under the Growing Up In Ireland study will show if this persisted beyond 2011. The research findings come as new figures show yet another rise in the number of people becoming homeless, including families.

According to housing authorities’ reports, there were 3,428 homeless adults in September, with 738 homeless families and 1,571 dependents nationally. Last month also saw a rise in the number of families availing of emergency accommodation.

Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, and Minister for Housing, Paudie Coffey, said they would continue to work will all local authorities to deal with the homeless situation. Last week’s budget included a rise in funding for combating homelessness but charities and support groups have said it is still inadequate given the growing numbers of people accessing homeless services.


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