Young children's behavioural problems linked to poverty

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Children from poor families are more than twice as likely to have behavioural problems at age three than those from wealthier backgrounds, a study by the University of Bristol has found.

The research, commissioned by the Sutton Trust and using a Strengths and Difficulties questionnaire for parents, found that 35 per cent of boys from the most deprived backgrounds had clinical-level behavioural problems compared with 15 per cent of those from more affluent families. At age seven, 22 per cent of poorer children still had behavioural problems compared with 10 per cent of those wealthier. Twenty-nine per cent of girls from deprived families had behavioural problems at age three and 20 per cent at age seven.

The study found that inequalities in behaviour had widened significantly over the past decade. Girls born in the early 1990s were twice as likely as their better-off peers to have behavioural problems at age seven, but this figure rose to three and a half times more likely for girls born within the last ten years.

The Sutton Trust has launched a new funding scheme, in partnership with Impetus, a philanthropist organisation, aimed at closing the gap in school readiness between disadvantaged children and those from more affluent families through early intervention. The Impetus-Sutton Early Years Initiative will provide funding of up to £350,000 for programmes that involve working closely with disadvantaged parents and their children aged from birth to five.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said, 'The research shows once again why it is so important to intervene pre-school to stem problems before they develop. We are delighted that our partnership with the Impetus Trust will allow us to do so in such a concrete and significant way.'

Daniela Barone Soares, chief executive of the Impetus Trust, said, 'Our goal is to break the present link between poverty at birth and life chances, with the goal of creating equal life opportunities for all children in the UK.'


For details of the scheme visit The study, A cross cohort comparison of child behaviour problems, is at

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