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All You Need is...? Measuring Children's Perceptions and Experiences of Deprivation

Research Staff

Prof. Sheila Greene, Dr. Lorraine Swords

About the Project

This paper reports the results of a study aiming to derive a child-generated set of indicators of child deprivation. To date child poverty and deprivation have been calculated on the basis of the child being reared in a household assessed as living in relative or consistent poverty. There is a convincing argument for including children in the development of child-specific indicators to capture the extent and experience of child deprivation. Using the socially perceived necessities method with children and their parents to identify child necessities and enforced lack of these necessities is innovative in the study of childhood deprivation in Ireland.

An index of 12 indicators of child deprivation was developed solely from child responses and showed how key necessities for children identified by children differ from child necessities identified by adults and assessed in surveys such as the SILC Special Module 2009. Although children acknowledge the importance of basic necessities such as adequate food and clothing, they also place an emphasis on being able to participate in typical family activities (e.g. holidays or going out for a meal) and to access services (e.g. library or shops). This indicates the importance of specifically measuring how children experience deprivation and the holistic impact it can have on their lives.

Evidence from this study suggests that while household deprivation is related to child-specific deprivation, household and child deprivation are not one and the same phenomenon. In some instances children experience more deprivation than their parents, while in others parents may be going without in order to ensure that their children’s needs are met. It appears that some children are protected from experiencing the level of child-specific deprivation that might be expected considering their parents’ reports of household deprivation, while other children in homes with little or no apparent household deprivation are experiencing a surprising lack of child essentials. 

Thus, the distribution of resources within the family is complex and there is a need to clearly identify the factors at play here. However, using household indicators of deprivation or parent reports of deprivation in data collection as a proxy for children’s own experiences is inadequate as it does not help us to sufficiently identify or satisfactorily understand the actual experiences of deprived and non-deprived children living in deprived and non-deprived homes. Preliminary results arising from the development and early application of the 12-item child-generated deprivation measure suggest that it has potential for use with children in the changing Irish economic context and that it could serve as a useful child-centred adjunct to current means of calculating levels of child poverty.

To view this report via pdf., click here.

This research is funded by Barnardos and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul

Last updated 22 November 2011 by The Children′s Research Centre (Email).