Children in more expensive homes ‘have fewer emotional and behavioural problems’

Sold, To Let and Let By estate agent signs placed outside homes in north London (Yui Mok/PA)
Sold, To Let and Let By estate agent signs placed outside homes in north London (Yui Mok/PA) - (Copyright PA Archive)
0:01am, Thu 17 Sep 2020
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Children who grow up in more expensive homes tend to display fewer emotional and behavioural problems, according to research.

Greater housing wealth is linked to children experiencing fewer difficulties such as low mood, anxiety, fighting and disobedience, a University College London (UCL) study suggests.

The researchers, from UCL’s Centre for Longitudinal Studies, compared families with similar incomes but varying levels of wealth, while accounting for other socio-economic factors.

Measures included home ownership and value, savings, stocks and shares, outstanding mortgages and any other debts.

They analysed data from more than 8,500 children born in the UK in 2000-2002, and calculated scores based on reports of children’s mental and physical health at age 11.

As housing wealth inequalities increase, it is possible the divergence in children’s emotional and behavioural problems could be intensified.

Children in families with greater housing wealth tended to display fewer emotional and behavioural problems than those with less wealth, they found.

They also had fewer difficulties getting on with their peers.

For example, children in homes worth £400,000 had an average score of 6.9, compared to 8.2 for children in homes worth £100,000 – a difference of around 16%.

Co-author Dr Ludovica Gambaro said: “Our finding that housing wealth and property value are likely to contribute to children’s emotional and behavioural problems is worrying.

“While a large majority of the children participating in this study experienced family home ownership and may have benefited from the rising house prices in the early 2000s, the proportion of children growing up in home owning families has fallen dramatically in the last decade.

“Meanwhile, the proportion growing up in rented homes has increased, creating a stark divide between children who benefit from the advantages of housing wealth and those who do not.

“As housing wealth inequalities increase, it is possible the divergence in children’s emotional and behavioural problems could be intensified.”

The authors said the link between family wealth and child development should not be interpreted as causal and more research is needed.

They did not find any significant link to physical health and cognitive ability.

The study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), is published in the journal Child Development.

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