Child mental health and resilience in the context of socioeconomic disadvantage: results from the Born in Bradford cohort study

Natalie Kirby*, Barry Wright, Victoria Allgar

*Corresponding author for this work

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Socioeconomic disadvantage has been linked to mental health difficulties in children and adolescents, although many children appear to do well despite exposure to financial adversity in childhood. Our study looked at the effects of family financial difficulty on children’s mental health outcomes (n = 636) at 4–5 years in a multi-ethnic UK cohort, the Born in Bradford cohort. We considered potential parent and child variables promoting resilience in this population. Univariate linear regression was used to identify associations between family financial difficulty measured antenatally and child mental health difficulties measured by teacher-rated Strengths and Difficulties (SDQ) scores at 4–5 years. Hierarchical multivariate regression was used to test for potential moderating effects of parent and child factors. Mothers completed the General Health Questionnaire-28, Kessler-6 Questionnaire and questions related to parenting warmth, hostility and confidence. Parent-rated Infant Characteristic Questionnaires and teacher-rated Early Years Foundation Stage scores provided information on child temperament, literacy and physical development as potential moderators. Financial difficulty was associated with worse mental health outcomes in children. High parent warmth, high child literacy scores and physical development scores were all associated with positive child mental health outcomes at 4–5 years. In terms of protective effects, only maternal warmth was found to significantly moderate the relationship between financial difficulty and child mental health difficulties. The current study demonstrates that family financial difficulty is associated with poorer child mental health outcomes in a UK cohort of mothers and their school-aged children. It provides evidence of the positive relationships between warm parenting, child literacy and child physical development with mental health in young children. The study supports the finding that warm parenting moderates the relationship between family financial difficulty and interventions supporting this aspect of parenting may therefore provide particular benefit to children growing up in this context.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2019


  • Child mental health
  • Poverty
  • Protective factors
  • Resilience

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