Study identifies why UK's most needy parents are not using early years services

November 24, 2011
Study identifies why UK's most needy parents are not using early years services

It is widely recognised that parent and toddler groups provide support while also improving life-chances for children from low-income families. However, new research from the University of Bristol has found that nearly a quarter of mothers’ first-time visits to a group were so off-putting that they did not return to that group. One in five mothers then became afraid of attending any group.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Barnardo’s-funded study, carried out by Dr Sue Jones from the University’s School for Policy Studies, interviewed thirty from a Sure Start area to identify the factors behind why some parents use early years groups regularly and others not at all.

Dr Jones, Research Associate in the University’s School for Policy Studies, said: “Despite the concerns of government agencies, such as social services and education authorities, that many ‘hard-to-reach’ parents do not use early years groups, there has been little research into the social and psychological factors that underlie why these parents choose not to attend.”

The study identified that by far the most crucial determinant in attending, was not the location or cost but how thought they would get on with others in the group. This accounted for nearly half of all attractions (42 per cent) and barriers (45 per cent) to attending the 97 groups, which mothers described.

The study’s key findings include:

  • Nearly one in four first-time visits to early years groups were so off-putting (due to peer factors such as knowing no-one there, finding it cliquey, or not the ‘right’ social class) that mothers did not return to that group;

  • One in five mothers interviewed were identified as group-‘phobic’ — strongly afraid of attending all groups after one or two bad experiences;

  • Peer factors were also important for children - finding other children in the groups friendly was an attraction, finding them ‘rough’ was a barrier;

  • Mothers were ten times more likely to go to a group more than once, if told about it by a friend or relative than if they just saw a poster or leaflet.

  • Far fewer Sure Start groups were described as ‘cliquey’ (5 per cent) compared to other early years groups (24 per cent), possibly reflecting that Sure Start groups were run by paid staff, had designated ‘welcomers’, and some were short-term which stopped cliques from forming.
Dr Jones added: “My study has found that going to a group can be a daunting experience, especially if a mother doesn’t know anyone there. The mother and group need to ‘fit’ together. Mothers need to feel that others in the group are her social equals, with similar values and attitudes to child-rearing. Mothers need to feel their age, social class, and their or their child’s ethnic identity will not isolate them in a group.”

The study, from a doctoral study of thirty parents of young children from a Sure Start area, was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the charity, Barnardo’s.

Explore further: All TV and no talking makes Jack a dull boy

Related Stories

All TV and no talking makes Jack a dull boy

July 1, 2011
By encouraging reading, talking and playing, providing a range of books and toys, visiting a library, keeping TV time to a minimum and taking their child to preschool, parents can dramatically improve their child’s language ...

Not sleeping with parents linked to baby's stress in bath: Dutch study

October 6, 2011
Babies who do not sleep in their parents' bedroom, experience a higher stress level in the bath than children who do, concludes NWO researcher Carolina de Weerth from Radboud University Nijmegen. She published the results ...

Mums are heading back to work sooner and it is stressing them out

June 23, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Sole parents and married mums are working more, leading to more time in childcare for their kids and decreases in the parents overall life and job satisfaction, according to news stats from the Melbourne ...

Recommended for you

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

App lets patients work alone or with others to prevent, monitor, and reverse chronic disease

July 24, 2017
Lack of patient adherence to treatment plans is a lingering, costly problem in the United States. But MIT Media Lab spinout Twine Health is proving that regular interventions from a patient's community of supporters can greatly ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.