Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Does material disadvantage explain the increased risk of adverse health, educational, and behavioural outcomes among children in lone parent households in Britain? A cross sectional study
  1. Nick Spencer
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor N Spencer
 School of Health and Social Studies and Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7 AL, UK;


Objective: To test the hypothesis that material disadvantage explains the increased risk among children and young people of adverse health, educational, and behavioural problems associated with living in lone parent households in Britain

Study design: Secondary analysis of a cross sectional survey of a representative sample of British households with children and youth

Main outcomes: Parent reported fair/poor health, longstanding illness and disability, statement of special educational needs, suspension and/or expulsion from school, and in trouble with the police.

Participants: Data were available on 15 636 (8049 boys and 7587 girls) aged 0–18 years in 8541 households in the third sweep (2001) of the British government’s families and children study

Results: Lone parenthood was associated with increased risk of health and educational problems, and antisocial behaviour among boys and girls in a logistic regression model adjusting for child’s age alone. Adding age of main carer, number of dependent children, and child’s rank in the household made little difference to the associations. Addition of housing tenure, household hardship index, and an interaction term for lone parenthood and hardship eliminated the relation with lone parenthood for all outcomes except parent reported health among girls. Similar results were obtained for households headed by lone parents for at least a year. An interaction effect of lone parenthood with hardship for parent reported health and statement of special educational needs was noted.

Conclusion: Adverse effects of lone parenthood on health, education, and antisocial behaviour were apparently explained by material disadvantage in this cross sectional sample of British households with children and youth.

  • SEN, special educational need
  • FCS, families and children study

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding: none.

  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.

Linked Articles