Chapter 4: Social and Psychological Development


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Chapter 4: Social and Psychological Development

4.1 Introduction

In the initial phase of the study, 185 children and their mothers were studied across a range of social, psychological and economic variables. In Phase Two, 97 of these children, now young adults, were interviewed. Eighty mothers also participated in this part of the study. This section provides a descriptive account of the factors examined in the study.

The average age of participants was 21 years 3 (standard deviation = 0.48). Most respondents in both phases of the research were male although the distribution was more evenly distributed in Phase Two 4 . Almost all (91%) were single and non-cohabitating; the remainder were unmarried and living with a partner. Almost one-fifth (19%) of respondents had had children and two respondents were pregnant with their first child at the time of interview. Most young parents (n=14) were female but this difference was not significant. Over three-quarters (79%) of interviewees were still living in the family home.

4.2 Educational attainment and experiences

Figure 4.1: Highest educational attainment achieved by participants

Figure 4.1: Highest educational attainment achieved by participants


3 Mean = 2.1 years, sd=0.48.
4 There were 107 males in Phase One and 50 males in Phase Two.


Almost one-fifth (19%) of respondents were still in full-time education. The remainder had completed schooling between thirteen and twenty-one years 5. All had started secondary school but there was wide variation in relation to retention and educational attainment as shown in Figure 4.1. One-third had not completed second level education and 36% of the early school leavers undertook no further education. Almost 60% of those who completed second level went on to third level education. Table 4.1 illustrates the type of educational qualifications obtained by respondents.

Table 4.1: Educational Attainment (Highest educational qualification attained)

Table 4.1: Educational Attainment (Highest educational qualification attained)

There were some gender differences in relation to educational variables but these differences were non-significant. The small number (3) of respondents who left school without qualifications were all male. Slightly more females (70%) than males (62%) completed second level education and approximately one-half (49%) of female respondents, in comparison to 30% of male interviewees, went on to third level education.


5 Mean = 17.4 years, sd = 1.89).


Figure 4.2: Reported Frequency of Trouble in School by Gender

Figure 4.2: Reported Frequency of Trouble in School by Gender

Participants were asked about school experiences and behaviour and the majority (83%) felt that they had made good academic progress. Females rated their academic achievements as satisfactory slightly more often (93% and 82% respectively) and also reported satisfactory social development in school (97% and 90% respectively). Interviewees were asked to subjectively evaluate their behaviour in school and this was coded into three categories: never/rarely, sometimes, or often/always in trouble at school (Figure 4.2). Almost half (48%) of the group reported that they were rarely or never in trouble at school. Conversely, approximately one fifth (19%) said that they were often or always in trouble with teachers. Gender differences were significant in that more males (26%) than females (11%) stated that they were often/always in trouble and conversely more females (66%) than males (32%) said that they were rarely or never in trouble at school (X2 = 11.386, df = 2, p < 0.01).

4.3 Employment and work experiences

Figure 4.3: Employment situation of participants

Figure 4.3: Employment situation of participants

As outlined in Figure 4.3, almost three-quarters (73%) of participants were in employment at the time of the study and over half of those not currently working were in full time education. More males than females were unemployed at the time of the study but this difference was not significant. The level of movement between jobs was unremarkable. The majority (59%) had been with their present employer for less than a year. Male respondents were in ongoing employment for a somewhat longer period than female respondents. When questioned about work experiences and aspirations, the great majority (90%) were satisfied with their present job. They also appeared, in general (64%), to be content with their working conditions. Relationships with work colleagues were almost universally rated as good (97%) and this was equally true for both male and female respondents.

Respondents were asked about their financial circumstances and while 30% reported having some level of debt, overall the great majority (90%) stated that they had adequate spending money. Only four reported financial difficulties. Thirteen individuals were in receipt of welfare payments and these were primarily mothers (n=9) receiving lone parents allowance.

Table 4.2: Socio-economic classification of participants

Table 4.2: Socio-economic classification of participants

Table 4.2 categorises respondents according to socio-economic grouping, based on their present occupation, and shows that the largest proportion of the sample fell into the Non-manual category. Only four participants were included in the Employers/Managers and Higher Professional categories which partly reflects the age level of participants.

4.4 Psychological Health Status

Figure 4.4: Treatment for psychological problems (in past and/or at present)

Figure 4.4: Treatment for psychological problems (in past and/or at present)

Twelve (12%) respondents reported that they had attended a doctor in the previous year because of an emotional or psychological problem (including depression, anxiety and eating disorders). Four individuals were in therapy at the time of the study and one participant was currently taking psychotropic medication. Eighteen percent reported having received treatment in the past (usually from a psychiatrist) for psychological difficulties. Slightly more females than males (21% in comparison to 16%) had received treatment, but this difference was not significant. Reasons for seeking treatment in the past were similar to those relating to present symptomatology i.e. depression, anxiety and eating disorders, as well as distress following various events or difficulties.

4.4.1 Present symptomatology

Present psychological health status was assessed using the SCID (First et al 1996) 6. This instrument provides a research diagnosis, which is generally well-correlated with clinical diagnosis. None of the respondents reached a level of definite clinical diagnosis but almost three-quarters (72%) presented with a likely diagnosis for disorder (i.e. significant symptoms below the threshold of diagnosis). Similar numbers of males (74%) and females (70%) received this categorisation. The largest likely diagnostic category was substance abuse. At least half of those who received a likely diagnosis were categorized within at least one other diagnostic grouping including mood, anxiety, or eating disorders. A number of respondents had five (or more) likely diagnosis. Figure 4.5 illustrates the various likely diagnostic categories 7.

Figure 4.5: Frequency of Main (Likely) Diagnostic Categories

Figure 4.5: Frequency of Main (Likely) Diagnostic Categories

Over one-third (38%) received an anxiety-related (likely) diagnosis. More females (60%) than males (41%) received this categorisation but the difference did not reach statistical significance. Fourteen respondents (14%) received a likely diagnosis of a mood disorder, equally distributed between males (seven) and females (seven). Based on the SCID assessment six respondents had experienced a depressive episode in the past. Four individuals, all female, received a likely diagnoses of Eating Disorder.


6 See Chapter 2 and Appendix One for a full description of this instrument.
7 A detailed breakdown of subcategories is contained in Appendix Two.


4.4.1.1 Substance Use

Alcohol consumption and substance abuse were included in the SCID assessment but additional questions were asked to determine participants' subjective evaluation of their drinking and drug use. A very high percentage (92%), an equal number of males and females, drank alcohol and heavy drinking was common. Thirty percent received a likely diagnosis of alcohol abuse, with a small and non-significant gender difference in favour of males. However there was a more significant gender difference in relation to another likely diagnostic category, alcohol dependence. Twenty-one individuals, more than a fifth (22%) of the total, received a likely diagnosis of alcohol dependence and this included sixteen (17%) males and five (5%) females (X2 = 6.52, df = 1, p < 0.01).

Ten percent of the group had some form of (likely) drug dependence and 4% received a likely diagnosis of drug abuse. Over half (55%) received a likely diagnosis of substance-related disorder (which included both alcohol and drugs) and again there was a slight preponderance of males (62% of those who received this diagnosis were male). One respondent in eight (13%) were categorized as having significant features of drug abuse and dependency 8. Twelve respondents presented with a likely diagnoses of two substance-related disorders. Figure 4.6 presents the frequency of alcohol and drug dependence among the young people, based on the SCID measure.


8 Substance dependence refers to compulsive and repetitive use of alcohol or other drugs despite problems (withdrawal symptoms etc.) Substance abuse refers to repeated but not compulsive use or addiction (American Psychiatric Association (1994), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV).


Figure 4.6: Frequency of alcohol and drug abuse and dependency among young people, based on the SCID measure.

Figure 4.6: Frequency of alcohol and drug abuse and dependency among young people, based on the SCID measure.

Participants' subjective evaluation of their drinking was at variance with objective measures. When asked to rate alcohol consumption in a range from 'hardly drink at all' to 'drink heavily', just over half (52%) assessed their drinking as 'moderate.' None of the participants categorised themselves as heavy drinkers. Subjective evaluation of alcohol use is illustrated in Figure 4.7. Almost half (47%) of the participants were smokers.

Figure 4.7: Participants' subjective evaluation of alcohol use.

Figure 4.7: Participants' subjective evaluation of alcohol use.

4.5 Suicide Ideation and Behaviour

Suicide Ideation was measured using the Beck Scale for Suicide Ideation (Beck & Steer, 1991) but both suicidal ideation and behaviour were uncommon. Ninety-four percent showed no evidence of either. Three individuals (two males and one female) displayed some signs of suicidal ideation and a further three people (two females and one male) reported that they had previously attempted suicide.

4.6 Self-esteem and Locus of Control

Self-esteem was measured using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965) 9. Overall levels were quite high. Average self-esteem scores for males were slightly higher than for females but this difference was not statistically significant (Figure 4.8).

Figure 4.8: Mean Self-Esteem Scores for Participants

Figure 4.8: Mean Self-Esteem Scores for Participants 10

Locus of control scores are illustrated in Figure 4.9 and represent quite high levels of control. Locus of control was measured using a 7-item scale developed by Pearlin et al. (1981). A score of 0, the lowest score possible, indicates no sense of control over what happens in one's life (an external locus of control). The maximum score is 21.


9 A score of 0 represents the lowest self-esteem point and a score of 30 the highest.
10 Standard deviation of self-esteem scores were 4.28, 4.57 and 3.88 for all, males and females respectively.


Figure 4.9: Mean Locus of Control Scores for Participants

Figure 4.9: Mean Locus of Control Scores for Participants 11

4.7 Support Systems and Networks

To assess the impact of social and other forms of support, participants were questioned about friendship and support networks, community integration, and religious adherence. Social support was measured using the Arizona Social Support Interview Schedule (Barrera, 1980). The great majority of respondents (95%) reported that they had close friends and almost all (98%) were in regular contact (i.e. weekly) with their friends. Males reported having more close friends than females but this difference was not statistically significant. The majority of respondents also appeared to have access to emotional and practical support. Only seven individuals reported not having any confidant. Females were more likely than males (92% in contrast to 70%) to confide in others and also more likely (89% in comparison with 66%) to report needing a confidant in the recent past (Figure 4.10).

Figure 4.10: Percentage of Participants who reported that they did confide in others and needed a confidant, by gender

Figure 4.10: Percentage of Participants who reported that they did confide in others and needed a confidant, by gender


11 Standard deviation of locus of control scores were 2.47, 2.56 and 2.32 for all, males and females respectively.


4.7.1 Religion

Ninety-three percent (n=90) of participants professed to be Roman Catholics 12 but attendance at religious services was low. About one in ten (11%) attended church services regularly (i.e. at least once a month) and the majority 80% attended less often than four times per year. The main reason given for non-attendance was lack of interest. Yet, despite low church attendance, over three-quarters (83%) of the sample professed to believe in God and over 40% of these participants regarded religion as important in their lives (Figure 4.11).

Females interviewed were more likely to say that religion was important (49% in contrast to 38% of males) but these gender differences did not reach statistical significance (Figure 4.11). However there was a significant difference in relation to seeking moral guidance from their Church. Almost half (48%) of male respondents and 30% of female respondents would not refer to their Church's teaching when making moral decisions (X2 = 10.174, df = 2, p < 0.01) (Figure 4.11).

Figure 4.11: Attendance at Church, Importance of Religion and Reference to Church for guidance on moral issues

Figure 4.11: Attendance at Church, Importance of Religion and Reference to Church for guidance on moral issues

4.8 Contact with the Law

One-quarter of respondents reported having been in trouble with the law at some point, the majority (79%) being male (X2 = 9.741, df = 1, p < 0.01). In all cases, trouble with the law involved only one incident and most incidents (63%) were relatively minor. Only two participants were involved in serious incidents. A small number (n=4) had been arrested and following this, one individual had been detained for a short period in a juvenile detention centre. This data must however be considered in the context of findings in Chapter 2 indicating that significantly more non-contacts than study participants had a record for juvenile offences.


6 Two respondents belonged to the Church of Ireland, and five individuals stated that they had no religion.


4.9 Life Events & Life Satisfaction

Participants had experienced a variety of negative life events, some serious. This is illustrated in Figure 4.12.

Figure 4.12: Life Events experienced by Participants

Figure 4.12: Life Events experienced by Participants

Over a quarter (28%) of those interviewed had suffered from a serious illness, injury or assault (physical or sexual). Eleven respondents reported having been mugged or physically attacked and three had been sexually assaulted. Twice as many males as females experienced a physical attack and/or a road accident but these differences were not statistically significant. There were no significant gender differences in relation to other life event categories. Approximately similar percentages of males and females reported a relationship break-up.

4.10 Family Background and experiences 13

The great majority (90%) of respondents had had both parents present for all their childhood. Nine respondents grew up in single parent families, in almost all cases because their parents were separated. Only one respondent was raised in a family where the mother had never been married. Three of the mothers were now widowed but this had occurred when the respondents were over 18 years. The average family size was 3.9 children and the range was from one to eight children.


13 The following data are based on both the respondents' and the mothers' interviews. Eighty mothers were included in Phase 2 of the study.


4.10.1 Socio-Economic Background of the Family

Classification of socio-economic grouping was based on father's occupation (or mother if a single parent) and this is presented in Table 4.3. The modal category is semi-skilled manual and over half of respondents (57%) were in manual, semi-skilled and unskilled categories.

Table 4.3: Socio-Economic classification of family of origin

Table 4.3: Socio-Economic classification of family of origin

This socio-economic status reflects the educational attainment of the parents. Just over 60% of mothers and almost one-half (48%) of fathers had left school by age 15 years and only a minority (7% of mothers and 11% of fathers) had attained Leaving Certificate level. Two parents had obtained a third level qualification. In relation to continuing education, 31% of mothers and 42% of fathers had returned to full or part-time education.


14 This information was obtained from the mother's interviews hence n=80.


4.10.2 Financial circumstances of the family

Figure 4.13: Family in receipt of benefits

Figure 4.13: Family in receipt of benefits

In Phase One of the study economic disadvantage in the family had proved to be an important link with disorder in the child. In the current study over two thirds of mothers (69%) reported some level of financial difficulty while the index child was growing up, and one-fifth described more severe financial problems. Over one-third (36%) of families had been in receipt of benefits from the state, most commonly unemployment benefit, lone parent's allowance or deserted wife's allowance (Figure 4.13). A high proportion of fathers (44%) had been unemployed at some time during the index participant's childhood and over a third (38%) had been unemployed for more than six months 15. Just over half (52%) of the mothers had worked when the index child was growing up but only six mothers had worked continuously.


15 The mean age of the children at this time was 7.6 years.


4.10.3 Parental Mental Health

Figure 4.14: Mothers who received treatment for psychological problems by diagnosis in Phase One

Figure 4.14: Mothers who received treatment for psychological problems by diagnosis in Phase One

Mothers' diagnoses proved to be a key variable in Phase One of this study when one-third of the mothers interviewed received a positive diagnosis. Among the sample of 80 mothers interviewed at Phase Two, a similar proportion (31%) had received a diagnosis ten years previously. Over half (52%) of this diagnosed group had subsequently received treatment for these difficulties, yet a similar percentage (55%) within the undiagnosed group had received treatment for a psychological problem 16. In the present study the mothers' psychological health was assessed using the SCID (First et al., 1999) and none of the mothers had symptoms which reached a level of clinical disorder. However, there was, as with the respondents, a high level of sub-clinical symptomatology present. Over one-third (38%) presented with a likely diagnosis for disorder. The most common likely diagnoses were anxiety disorders (38%), mood disorders (8%) and alcohol abuse (5%). Thirteen (16%) mothers were currently taking psychotropic medication.

Based on mothers' reports, almost one-fifth (19%) of fathers had experienced psychological problems half of whom had received treatment while the index children were growing up. Over one-fifth (22%) of mothers reported fathers as having a drink-related problem either currently or in the past and three fathers had received treatment for alcoholism.


16 The mean age of the Index child during treatment was 8.6 years (Figure 4.14).


4.10.5 Marital relationship, parenting roles and support systems

In Phase One of this study, satisfaction with marital and parenting roles was linked to psychological disorder in the mother. In Phase Two a high proportion (85%) of mothers retrospectively reported a good or moderately good marital relationship during the childhood and adolescence of the index child. Eight mothers reported violence in their marital relationship and twelve mothers (15%) had separated from their spouses/partners 17. Over two-thirds (70%) reported a high level of sharing in the marital relationship although the majority had received no assistance from their husband/partner with childcare or other household tasks.

The mothers were equally satisfied with their parental role. A high percentage (89%) were content with their role performance and only two expressed severe dissatisfaction. Over three-quarters (79%) reported no particular difficulties with any of their children.

When asked to name the most important adult in the early life of the respondent, mothers clearly regarded themselves as the key parent, as illustrated in Figure 4.15. Still, a substantial number of mothers (57%) reported a high level of involvement by fathers in the child's life and only a small minority (6%) reported no participation.

Figure 4.15: Mother's perception of key adult in index child's life

Figure 4.15: Mother's perception of key adult in index child's life

Despite the lack of support systems reported in Phase One of the study mothers now appeared to be well integrated socially, a majority (88%) reporting support from relatives and friends. Almost all (98%) described close friends whom they saw regularly (i.e. at least once or twice a week) and also reported good relations and regular contact with relatives (95%). Over three-quarters (78%) said that they were on very good terms with their neighbours.


17 Three had separated in the recent past.


4.10.4 Respondents' relationship with parents

Table 4.4 gives participants' subjective assessment of their relationship with parents during childhood and adolescence. The great majority (94%) reported a good relationship with their mothers. A somewhat lower percentage (79%) reported a satisfactory relationship with fathers.

Mothers appeared to be the more usual confidants for respondents when they were growing up. Over half of the sample (54%), equally divided between males and females, felt that they could always or usually talk openly with their mothers. Approximately one fifth (21%) of female respondents and one-quarter of male respondents said that they could talk openly with their fathers.

Table 4.4: Respondents evaluation of relationship with parents

Table 4.4: Respondents evaluation of relationship with parents

To determine the level of childhood supervision respondents were asked if their parents generally knew their whereabouts when they were children. Over ninety percent (92%) of respondents said that their mothers knew where they were some, or all, of the time and 77% reported that their fathers knew their whereabouts. There were no significant gender differences in relation to supervision or in relation to physical punishment. Two-thirds reported that their mother had used physical punishment when they were children and over a fifth (22%) reported this to be a relatively frequent occurrence. Fathers were reported to have used less physical punishment and 41% of respondents had never been physically punished by their father.

4.11 Summary

This section presents descriptive findings from a study of 97 individuals whose mothers had previously been interviewed ten years ago when the respondents were aged eleven years. In this phase of the study all of the respondents were unmarried but almost one-fifth now had children. Over three-quarters were still living in the family home. Approximately one-fifth were still in full-time education but there was wide variation in relation to educational attainment. Almost one-third had not completed second level education. Females remained in the educational system for longer and were more likely to go on to third level education. Only a small proportion of participants was currently unemployed. There was no evidence of serious psychiatric disorder and only a small percentage of the group was receiving treatment for psychological difficulties. However, importantly, an assessment of psychological health status indicated a high degree of symptoms at a level which would suggest a likely, but not definitive, diagnosis of psychiatric disorder. The most common problems were substance misuse, anxiety and mood-related symptoms. The only significant gender difference in relation to psychological health was in the category of likely alcohol dependence where males predominated. Respondents demonstrated adequate levels of self-esteem and locus of control and appeared to be well integrated socially as well as having resources for intimacy and affirmation. Males were less likely to confide in others but this difference was not statistically significant. Religious observance was low yet over three-quarters of the sample said that they believed in God and 40% regarded religion as important in their lives. Almost one-quarter of those interviewed, mostly males, had had some contact with the law but this was overwhelmingly for minor offences and none of the respondents had been in prison.

Ninety percent of participants had been raised in the family home by both parents for all of their childhood. The children came generally from semi-skilled manual backgrounds and only two parents had a third level qualification. A fifth of mothers reported severe financial hardship during the key respondent's childhood. The respondents appeared, in general, to have had good relationships with parents especially mothers. Although over one-quarter of the mothers interviewed had received a psychiatric diagnosis in Phase One of the study there was now no evidence of clinical level disorder amongst them. Over half of mothers had received treatment in the intervening years but treatment rates were similar in the diagnosed and undiagnosed groups. Almost one-fifth of fathers had experienced psychological problems and about 10% had received treatment. Satisfaction with marital and parental roles, which had emerged as key variables in Phase One of the study, were re-examined, and mothers were now, in general, happy with their role performance in these areas.


Contents

Note re Authorship
Acknowledgements
Executive Summary
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Methodology
Chapter 3: Risk and Protection for children
Chapter 4: Social and Psychological development
Chapter 5: Health and Behaviour in Childhoods
Chapter 6: Educational Attainment
Chapter 7: Discussion and Conclusions
References
Appendix 1

- Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Diagnoses (SCID)
- Beck Scale for Suicide Ideation (BSSI)
- Rosenberg's Self-esteem Scale
- Arizona Social Support Interview Schedule (ASSIS)
- Locus of Control

Appendix 2

- Frequency of SCID Diagnostic Categories


Last modified:04/05/2010
 

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