The CPC Seminar Series takes place between October and June, all seminars are free to attend and no registration is required. If you would like to present please contact

Beating the odds: family poverty, family instability and children's adjustment, evidence from the Millenium Cohort Study

15th November 2012 3pm, University of Southampton 58/1007

Ingrid Schoon, Department of Quantitative Social Science, Institute of Education

The paper will examine the factors and processes that promote adjustment of young children, especially those growing up in circumstances of family poverty and instability. Using data from the first three sweeps of the Millennium Cohort Study (undertaken at child ages 9 months, 3 years and 5 years), it will begin by outlining the levels of economic hardship (equivalised net household income less than 60% of national median income) faced by young children in contemporary Britain, and the nature and stability of the family settings over the three waves of observation. We then assess the association of these factors with indicators of children's cognitive development (directly assessed using the British Ability Scales) and emotional/behavioural adjustment (carer-rated using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire) at age 5 years. In the next step we examine cumulative risk exposure, taking into account a number of interlinked risks (i.e. low education, employment status, housing conditions, parental mental health) and assess the role of potential protective factors and processes reducing the negative effects of specific and cumulative risk exposure for young children. The experience of early and cumulative risk exposure significantly undermines the cognitive and behavioural adjustment of children at age 5. Protective factors, reducing the negative risk effects of specific as well as cumulative disadvantage include warm and supportive parent-child interactions, use of childcare, as well as support from and interactions with a wider social network. Implications of our findings for policy makers are discussed.