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Money & Advice What is the impact of financial stress on children?

At a time when mental health is a hot topic, the impact of a family’s financial stress on their children cannot be ignored.
According to research by The Children’s Society on the impact of money worries on children’s mental well-being and health, 2.4 million children live in families with problem debt in England & Wales and these children are five times more likely to be at risk of having low well-being than those not facing difficulties with debt. Children living in low income households are at greater risk of having poor mental health.


The kind of debt and the variety of debt has an impact on well-being as well. The report states ‘The number of debt types - rather than the overall amount of debt a family has - is associated with poorer mental health in children. Children in families with multiple debt types are at greater risk of experiencing mental health problems than children in families with fewer debt types.’


When asked about their emotional responses to debt, ‘both parents and children said experiences of debt left them feeling stressed, anxious and depressed... There was an overwhelming sense of shame and embarrassment felt by both parents and children - parents felt ashamed of not being able to manage money effectively; children felt embarrassed by being unable to afford normal things like their peers, and being unable to socialise.’


There were other emotional stresses felt by children in families dealing with debt, ‘Children felt guilty, anxious and felt like failures about not being able to help their parents deal with debt - it had an impact on their confidence and feelings of self-worth...Debt led to arguments within families between parents, parents and children, and between siblings, and left parents feeling like they were not in control of their lives and could not protect their children.’


Money pressure also left children and parents feeling isolated and excluded, ’Debt meant not being able to go on outings, take part in activities like sports or school trips, missing out on things like birthdays, extended family gatherings or family holidays ‘.


This research shows that financial stress can have a detrimental impact on children’s mental well-being. If you are experiencing debt problems, please don’t ignore them.’ You can find the details for agencies that can help here: http://www.eastsussexcu.org.uk/MoneyAdvice.


You can read the full report from The Children’s Society here: https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/the-damage-of-debt-2016.pdf

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