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Abstract:

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CASE Paper
Childhood Poverty, Early Motherhood and Adult Social Exclusion
John Hobcraft and Kathleen E Kiernan
July 1999
Paper No' CASE 028:
Full Paper (pdf)

Tags: poverty; early motherhood; social exclusion; outcomes in later life

Childhood poverty and early parenthood are both high on the political agenda. The key new issue addressed in this research is the relative importance of childhood poverty and of early motherhood as correlates of outcomes later in life. How far are the 'effects' of early motherhood on later outcomes due to childhood precursors, especially experience of childhood poverty? If there are powerful associations of both childhood poverty and early parenthood with later adult outcomes, there are a number of subsidiary questions relating to the magnitude of these associations, the particular threshold levels of childhood poverty that prove most critical, and whether it is, as often assumed, only teenage mothers who are subsequently disadvantaged, or also those who have their first birth in their early twenties? The source of data for this study is the National Child Development Study. We examine a range of outcomes at age 33 in a number of domains representing different aspects of adult social exclusion, including: welfare, socio-economic, physical health, and emotional well-being, as well as demographic behaviour. We control for a wide range of childhood factors: poverty; social class of origin and of father; mother's and father's school leaving age; family structure; housing tenure; mother's and father's interest in education; personality attributes; performance on educational tests; and contact with the police by age 16. We show that there are clear associations for the adult outcomes with age at first birth, even after controlling for childhood poverty and a wide range of other childhood background factors. Moreover, we demonstrate that the widest gulf in adult outcomes occurs for those who enter motherhood early (before age 23), though further reinforced for teenage motherhood for most adult outcomes. We also show that it is any experience of childhood poverty that is most clearly associated with adverse outcomes in adulthood, with additional reinforcement for highe