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Press release

Rising costs put extra financial pressure on families this Christmas

Children could be exposed to more intense and damaging parental conflict this Christmas as heightened economic pressures

Published

23 Dec 2021

Contributor

This release shares data from a YouGov survey of parents about Christmas, stress and financial pressures.

A YouGov survey of 1,053 parents of children aged 18 and under in Britain, commissioned by research charity and What Works Centre, the Early Intervention Foundation, has found that 56% of those who celebrate Christmas worry about their finances at Christmas. 51% said they find Christmas stressful.  

Among those who said that they find Christmas stressful, finances were the main reason for stress (44%). This was particularly the case for younger parents, as this figure rose to 49% for 25-34-year-olds, compared with 38% and 30% of parents aged 45-54 and 55+, respectively. The second most common reason for stress at Christmas is choosing gifts for family/ friends (20%). Only 6% admitted to family and/or friends coming to visit being a cause of stress.    

According to the Bank of England, a typical household in the UK spends just over £2,500 in a month. But in the run up to Christmas, spending habits change. Households spend on average almost £740 more in December, which is 29% more than in a typical month.  

The survey also found that three in five (61%) parents of children aged 18 and under think that their household and day-to-day finances will be more difficult to afford in 2022 than the current year. Rising household costs and inflation are particular concerns, with rising energy costs being cited as the most common reason for parents to think they’ll be worse off next year (88%), followed by rising food costs (82%) and rising inflation (77%).   

Other reasons were rising travel costs (44%), increased childcare costs (20%) and job insecurity (17%). Parents aged 55 and over were more likely than younger parents aged between 25 and 34 to admit that next year could be financially challenging (69% and 59%, respectively).   

Impact on children    

The Early Intervention Foundation believes that this challenging economic backdrop could spell trouble for families, especially where conflict between parents already exists and affects their children. One in seven (14%) parents surveyed said they are more likely to argue more at Christmas than at other times of the year. 

Dr Jo Casebourne, chief executive at the Early Intervention Foundation commented: “Parental conflict that is poorly resolved and ongoing has a potentially big impact on children. It can cause anxiety and stress but can also show up in antisocial behaviour, academic and physical health difficulties, and social problems. Christmas is a pinch point and a particular time of stress, all the more so for poorer and more vulnerable families. It can accentuate difficulties these families already face.”  

Research by the charity shows that not all conflict is damaging, but where fights between parents are frequent, intense and poorly resolved, it can harm children’s wellbeing and life chances.   

Economic pressure impacts on parents’ mental health, which can cause relationship problems and difficulties with parenting. These difficulties can include reduced parental sensitivity and time spent interacting with their child, and can lead to harsher parenting practices, which are linked to future difficulties for children and adolescents.  

Dr Casebourne added: “While it is very positive that the government has policies in place to provide support for family relationships and support to tackle parental conflict and its effects on children, this needs to be combined with clear action to tackle the financial stresses that some families are facing and improve the economic context in which these children live.”  

-ENDS-  

Notes to editors   

About the YouGov survey:   

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,053 GB parents of children aged 18 and under, of which 1,030 celebrate Christmas Fieldwork was undertaken between 23rd - 25th November 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).  

About EIF:    

The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children and young people at risk of experiencing negative outcomes. For more information, see: www.eif.org.uk   

Impact on parental conflict on children

Government’s own website says

There is a strong body of evidence to show how damaging inter-parental conflict can: 

  • harm children’s outcomes, even when parents manage to sustain positive parent-child relationships 

And put children at more risk of: 

  • having problems with school and learning 

  • negative peer relationships 

  • physical health problems 

  • smoking and substance misuse 

  • mental health and wellbeing challenges 

The risks can also have an effect on long-term life outcomes such as: 

  • poor future relationship chances 

  • reduced academic attainment 

  • lower employability 

  • heightened interpersonal violence 

  • depression and anxiety 

Media contacts  

Andy Ross, Senior Press Officer – 07949 339 975 / andy.ross@eif.org.uk 

About the contributor

Dr Jo Casebourne

Jo is chief executive at EIF.