Published by Coram Family and Childcare, the findings are based upon an opinion poll of 529 parents with children under five and focus groups with parents of young children in Camden, Doncaster, Plymouth, Slough and Wirral, conducted in July.
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The research also reveals that more women than men experience loneliness, with twice as many mothers than fathers saying they often feel left out, as well as younger parents. Nearly two-fifths (37 per cent) of parents aged 18-24 said they often feel a lack of companionship, compared to a fifth (21 per cent) of parents aged 25-34.
Parents highlighted two distinct times when loneliness is most prevalent – around the birth of a baby, particularly if the mother or baby have health problems, and when the children are older but haven’t yet started school.
According to the research, loneliness is likely to get worse before it gets better, improving when children reach school age. A total of 18 per cent of parents whose youngest child is under one said they often felt left out, rising to 41 per cent of parents whose youngest is two, and falling to 8 per cent when the youngest child reaches five.
The findings will inform Coram Family and Childcare’s new project, funded by the National Lottery Community Reaching Communities programme, to support groups of local parents to work together to combat loneliness while their child is young.
The focus groups put together by the charity revealed that parents felt the best way to combat loneliness and isolation is to take part in local activities with other parents.
Many of the parents said they were unable to access the kind of activities that could have helped them when they were feeling lonely. For some parents, those activities did not exist locally or were at unsuitable times or locations, while some parents attended activities where they did not feel welcomed.
Coram Family and Childcare’s new project will support groups of local parents to help to improve the activities available locally and to help more parents to access them.
Claire Harding, head of Coram Family and Childcare, said, ‘Being a parent is a hard job and it’s even harder if you feel lonely or isolated. We’re really concerned that over half of parents of young children feel lonely at least some of the time, and that it’s worse for low income parents. We need proper investment to make sure all families can access activities for themselves and their young children, so that everyone gets the benefits of friendship and social support.’