Over half of parents with young children feel lonely, with those on lowest incomes twice as likely to be affected

Published: Wednesday 27th November 2019

New research published today by Coram Family and Childcare has found that over half (56%) of parents with children under five experience loneliness at least some of the time, with twice as many parents on the lowest incomes saying they often feel isolated from others as parents on the highest incomes (33% v 16%).

The study also reveals that the issue significantly affects more women than men, with twice as many mothers than fathers saying they often feel left out (30% v 16%), as well as younger parents, with nearly two-fifths (37%) of parents aged 18-24 often feeling a lack of companionship, compared to a fifth (21%) of parents aged 25-34.

Parents highlight two distinct times when loneliness is most prevalent – around the birth of a baby, particularly if the mother or baby have health problems and are unable to get out of the house easily; and when the children are older but haven’t yet started school. The report finds that loneliness can get worse before it gets better, improving when children reach school age. 18% of parents whose youngest child is under one often feel left out, rising to 41% of parents whose youngest is two, and falling to just 8% whose youngest child is five.

The new research 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. Focus groups conducted by Coram Family and Childcare with parents in five cities and towns revealed that parents felt the best way to combat loneliness and isolation is to take part in local activities with other parents.

The focus groups found that for parents who experience loneliness more often, they felt the most important aspects of activities that could help include being able to meet parents in a similar situation to themselves, activities that their child will enjoy and a relaxed atmosphere. Interestingly, more men than women said they were looking for “a safe space to discuss personal matters” whilst more women than men wanted “activities where I do not have to admit I am lonely or isolated”.

Many of the parents also said that they were unable to access the kinds of activities that could have helped 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’re 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.”

Read the full research paper

 
Findings are based on an opinion poll of 529 parents with children under five and focus groups with parents of young children in five English towns and cities (Camden, Doncaster, Plymouth, Slough, and Wirral), conducted in July 2019