Impact of poverty and adversity on perceived family support in adolescence: findings from the uk millennium cohort study
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Department of Public Health, Policy and Systems, University of Liverpool, Liverpool-United Kingdom United Kingdom
School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Institute of Medicine, Gothenburg University, Göteborg, Sweden
Department of Public Health Sciences, Stockholm University, Stockholm-Sweden Sweden
Population Health Sciences Institute, Newcastle University, Newcastle-United Kingdom
Population Health Sciences Institute, Newcastle University, Newcastle-United Kingdom United Kingdom
Department of Women and Children's Health, King's College London, London-United Kingdom United Kingdom
Publication date: 2023-04-26
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1125
Emotional support from family members may have an important effect on adolescent health outcomes, and has been identified as a target for policy to protect against the impacts of poverty and adversity. However, few studies have assessed the extent to which poverty and adversity themselves influence the nature of emotional support that parents can provide to adolescents. We therefore aimed to investigate the impact of trajectories of income poverty and family adversities on young people’s relationships with their families and perceived emotional support received.

We analysed longitudinal data on 10976 children from the nationally representative UK Millennium Cohort Study. Exposure trajectories of poverty and family adversities were characterised using group-based multi-trajectory models. The outcomes were perceived emotional support and quality of family relationships, measured by the three-item Short Social Provisions Scale (SPS-3) and levels of parent-adolescent closeness and conflict, measured at age 14. ORs and 95% CIs were estimated using multivariable logistic regressions.

At age 14 the overall prevalence of low perceived emotional support was 13%. Children of mothers with lower socioeconomic status (SES) were more likely to report low emotional support, with a clear social gradient. Compared with children exposed to low levels of poverty and adversity, children in the persistent adversity trajectory groups experienced higher odds of low emotional support and low-quality parent-adolescent relationship; those exposed to both persistent poverty and poor parental mental health were particularly at increased risk of experiencing poor family relationships and low perceived emotional support (aOR 2·2; 95% CI 1·7– 2·9).

Low perceived emotional support and poor family relationships in adolescence are more prevalent among socially disadvantaged children and adolescents and those experiencing social adversity. Policies to improve levels of family support for UK adolescents should focus on improving modifiable determinants such as child poverty and family mental health.