Teenagers from poorer socio-economic backgrounds suffer more than their peers from affluent backgrounds in almost every walk of life, a major report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) shows.
The research from the Growing Up in Ireland study, published Thursday, represents the first results from interviews with more than 6,000 17 and 18-year-olds who have been participating in the study since 2007.
The analysis shows that boys and girls from socially disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be “problematic”, to have negative views of school, to be overweight, and to have lower life satisfaction.
On education, 39 per cent of the most socially disadvantaged disliked school compared with 19 per cent of those in the most socially advantaged group.
Young people from more educationally advantaged homes had consistently higher scores in English and Maths.
Those from disadvantaged families were more than twice as likely to be scolded for “misbehaving in class” (24 per cent compared to 11 per cent). They were also significantly more likely to be scolded for work that was “untidy or late” (24 per cent compared to 15 per cent).
The report called for “additional interventions” to stem the “most concerning” issue of the extent to which attitudes towards – and performance in – the education system are related to various measures of social advantage.
On health, there was correlation between physical wellbeing and parent education, with a “significantly lower” quality of health for young people whose mother had the lowest level of education.
There was also a strong relationship between weight and social advantage. A higher percentage those whose mother had lower levels of educational attainment tended to have weight problems.
For example, 4 per cent of young people whose mothers had a primary degree or higher were obese, compared with 14 per cent of those whose mothers had left school at Junior Certificate or before.
The percentage who had eaten fruit and vegetables in the 24 hours preceding their interview increased with the level of their mother’s education. In contrast, the percentage eating energy dense foods and soft drinks fell as the mother’s level of education increased.
In terms of “screen time”, young people from more educationally disadvantaged families were significantly more likely to spend three or more hours per day in front of a screen such as a television or a computer than those whose mother was a university graduate. Online time was also significantly higher among those who were overweight or obese.
On mental health, young people from less advantaged backgrounds also tended to report lower life satisfaction. More than a quarter of those from the most disadvantaged group gave a rating at or below the halfway mark compared to only 12 per cent of those from “professional or managerial” backgrounds.
Behaviourally, those from less advantaged backgrounds were more likely to be in the “problematic” category. Nearly one-in-five young people from the “never worked” family social class group were categorised as having “problematic” levels of socio-emotional difficulties compared to just 7 per cent of those from a “professional or managerial” background.
Those who had left education were more likely to be in the “problematic” category (24 per cent) compared to those who were still in school or in further/higher education (9 per cent).