Chapter 5 Parenting Support
Judith Mabelis and Paul Bradshaw, ScotCen Social Research
Parents manage better when they have sufficient and effective support. Social support can buffer the effect of stresses and difficulties which can arise from being a parent or other areas of life (Moran et al. 2004). Previous GUS reports have shown the importance of informal social networks for families with young children (Bradshaw et al. 2008; Bradshaw
et al. 2009) and that grandparents are a key source of informal support for many parents, although the levels of closeness, contact and patterns of interaction between grandparents and grandchildren vary (Jamieson et al. 2011).
In terms of formal support, effectively engaging clients with support services and interventions is recognised as a key factor in successfully resolving problems and effecting positive change in families' lives (MacQueen et al. 2007).
Given the importance of support in parenting, and the importance of parenting to children's development, a range of policy initiatives have been introduced in Scotland with the aim of supporting families, increasing parenting capacity, and facilitating early intervention. These include the Early Years Framework, Equally Well and Achieving Our Potential (all launched in 2008) which together aim to improve children's life chances through early intervention; and Getting it Right for Every Child (2006), which aims to facilitate consistent working across services to support children. The Scottish Government's National Parenting Strategy, published in October 2012, aims to support parents to be the best that they can through a number of different measures including the provision of clear and concise information as well as coordinated support to improve parenting skills. Moreover, alongside universal services such as antenatal classes, targeted interventions have been introduced such as the Family Nurse Partnership (piloted in NHS Lothian and Tayside 2009-2012). Parenting programmes currently operating in Scotland include Triple P, Mellow Parenting and Webster Stratton/Incredible Years. Campaign initiatives include Play Talk Read, aimed at parents of children aged 0-3 (launched in 2009).
Preventative services usually rely on parents actively seeking help or voluntarily accepting help offered to them (Katz et al. 2007; Hutton et al. 2007). However, previous GUS reports and other research suggests that parents in lower-income households, in social housing, or living in areas of high deprivation are less likely to have satisfactory networks and have lower levels of support, and are often the least likely to access services (Bradshaw et al. 2009; Ghate and Hazel, 2002; Mabelis and Marryat, 2011). Other groups of parents less likely to access services include: fathers, disabled parents, parents of teenagers, black and minority ethnic (BME) families, asylum-seeking parents, and homeless or peripatetic families, rural families (Katz et al. 2007), young parents and parents with literacy issues (Allen et al. 2012).
Parents can face a range of practical, material, social and cultural barriers to accessing services (Katz et al. 2007; MacQueen et al. 2007; Moran et al. 2004). Some parents associate professional family support with stigma and perceptions of parental failure (Mabelis and Marryat, 2011; Broadhurst, 2003; Katz et al. 2007), and can be concerned over issues of privacy, independence, and being seen as unable to cope (Ghate and Hazel 2002; Attree, 2005).
While the wealth of initiatives developed between BC1 and BC2 aim to increase both the numbers and range of parents accessing and benefiting from services, the factors outlined above offer a challenge to services aiming for prevention and early intervention. For some families, the stresses arising from the current recession may place additional strain on family circumstances, relationships, and wellbeing, all of which may undermine available social support networks and parents' capacity to offer support to others, as well as their capacity to engage with services.
This chapter explores the different sources and types of support that parents used in relation to information and advice on parenting. It covers both formal and informal support and, alongside use of support and services, also considers satisfaction with, and attitudes towards, parenting support. Consideration of the child's contact with his or her grandparents, and the support they offer to the family is also included.
5.2 Key findings
- Most parents were satisfied with the service provided by their health visitor during the first few months following the birth of their child. 83% of parents said their health visitor was either good or very good at providing helpful advice and 91% said the same in relation to listening to them.
- Just under half of parents (48%) had attended a parent-baby/toddler group in the last
12 months. Parental level of education and age had a key effect on whether or not the parent attended this type of group. For example, 22% of parents with no qualifications had attended such a group compared with 66% of parents with a degree.
- 70% of parents had not attended any parenting classes or programmes over the past
12 months. Just over half of parents (54%) indicated that they were unlikely to attend a parenting programme or class in the future. The most common reasons cited for not being likely to attend a programme or class in the future were not having enough time (25%) and feeling that they did not need to attend (22%).
- 58% of parents indicated that they had not used any of the government sponsored support services, such as Play@Home booklets and ChildSmile. Parents with no qualifications were less likely to have used these resources than parents educated to a degree level (70% had not used any compared with 54%). Minority ethnic parents were also less likely to have used these resources.
- Most parents said they preferred to receive information about parenting in person. 53% said they preferred to receive such information on a one-to-one basis from a professional such as a health visitor whilst 21% said they preferred to receive it in person from family or friends.
- 77% of parents stated that they were either very or quite satisfied with the information available to them about parenting and 72% said they were either very satisfied or quite satisfied with the services available to support them in their role as a parent. There were no differences in levels of satisfaction between parents of different socio-economic backgrounds.
- There were differences in attitudes towards formal support between different socio-economic groups. Younger parents, parents of lower educational level and income are more likely to find it harder to ask for formal help.
- Almost all children in BC2 were in regular contact with at least some of their grandparents including 67% who had regular contact with all of them and 33% with some. Children in BC2 were slightly less likely than those in BC1 to have contact with all of their grandparents - decreasing from 71% to 67%.
- Children whose parents had separated and those with younger mothers had contact with fewer of their grandparents than those whose parents were in a couple and those with older mothers.
- Most common forms of support from grandparents were buying toys or equipment for the child (93%), looking after the child during the day (84% get this support at least sometimes), and more generally providing advice or support (80%). Grandparents also frequently provided care for the children. 56% looked after the child at least once a week and 45% babysat at least once a month.
- Support was greater for parents in BC2 than parents in BC1. The most notable changes are in relation to helping out around the house - which increased from 44% to 69% - and helping out financially - which increased from 41% to 57%.
- Some families draw more heavily on support from grandparents than others, particularly lone parents, younger mothers and first-time mothers. These are some of the same characteristics of those families who are less likely to have contact with all of the child's grandparents meaning that, in many cases, a higher level of reliance is being placed on a more limited resource.
5.3 Contact with health visitor
Parents were asked about contact with their health visitor in the first three months following the birth of the child. As can be seen in Figure 5.1, parents were most likely to see their health visitor about once a week (26%), or once a month (23%). 6% of parents indicated that they never saw their health visitor.
Contact with health visitors varied according to level of maternal education. Health visitors visited mothers with no qualifications or lower levels of education more frequently than they visited mothers with degree level qualifications. 10% of mothers with no education received a visit more than once a week compared with 4% of mothers with a degree or above. No other significant differences were found between different groups of parents or geographical areas.
Base - all cases where mother was respondent, n=6007
5.3.1 Continuity of health visitor
Those parents who saw a health visitor at least once a month were asked whether they spoke to the same or a different health visitor. As shown in Table 5.1, most parents (85%) indicated that they had contact with the same health visitor each time including 45% stating that it was always the same health visitor and 40% saying that it was mostly the same health visitor.
|I always saw or spoke to the same health visitor each time||45|
|I mostly saw or spoke to the same health visitor each time||40|
|I mostly saw or spoke to a different health visitor each time||12|
|I always saw or spoke to a different health visitor each time||3|
|Base: mothers who saw a health visitor at least once a month||4422|
Again, education was a key influencing factor; mothers with no educational qualifications were more likely than mothers with higher levels of education to always see the same health visitor (60% compared with 38% of mothers with a degree or above).
There were also some differences by area deprivation. Parents living in the most deprived areas were more likely than those in the least deprived areas to say they saw the same health visitor (51% versus 38%).
5.3.2 Topics discussed with health visitor
Parents were asked about the types of things they discussed with their health visitor on these visits. As can be seen in Table 5.2, the most commonly discussed topic was the baby's feeding (57%), including issues such as reflux, weaning, and the baby's weight. Other topics that were widely discussed included the baby's illness/health or minor ailments (30%), the mother's own wellbeing (21%) and the baby's routine and general care (20%).
In response to this question, 3% of parents spontaneously indicated that they were either not satisfied with the information provided by the health visitor or did not ask the health visitor any questions.
|Feeding (including reflux), weaning, baby's weight||57|
|Baby's illness/health/minor ailment||30|
|Baby's routine and general care (including sleep patterns)||20|
|Nothing/didn't ask any questions/was not satisfied with response||3|
|Base: all families who saw a health visitor||5627|
Breastfeeding was specifically mentioned as a discussion topic by 14% of parents. The extent to which this had been discussed varied according to some key socio-economic factors - increasing with parental age, level of education and family income. As shown in chapter 4
of this report, all of these characteristics are associated with higher levels of breastfeeding. Figure 5.2 shows that there were particular differences between mothers of different levels
of education. Just 5% of mothers with no qualifications had talked about breastfeeding with their health visitor compared with 23% of mothers with a degree or above.
Base - all families who saw a health visitor: No qualifications - 348, Lower level standard grades = 322, Higher level standard grades = 1141, Higher grades = 1604, Degree = 2069, Other = 128
5.3.3 Perceptions of health visitor
Parents were asked to rate how good their health visitor was at providing advice and listening. Table 5.3 shows that the majority of parents (83%) reported that their health visitor was either very good or fairly good at providing helpful advice. Feedback on how well they listened was also very positive with 91% of parents saying this was either very good or fairly good.
There were slight differences in rating according to area deprivation. Parents living in the most deprived areas were slightly more likely to think that their health visitor was very good at listening to them compared with parents in the least deprived areas (67% versus 61%).
|...providing helpful advice on parenting issues||…listening to you|
|Neither good nor bad||12||6|
|Base: all families who saw a health visitor||5602||5619|
5.4 Parenting groups and classes
5.4.1 Parent and baby/toddler group
Just under half of parents (48%) reported attending a parent and baby/toddler group during the last year. This is a significantly higher level of attendance than for BC1, where 39% of parents reported doing the same, and may reflect longer periods of maternity leave amongst BC2 mothers (see chapter 8).
In line with results seen at sweep 1 of BC1, there are a number of differences between those parents who attended parent and baby/toddler groups (see Table 5.5) many of which are similar to the patterns already seen in relation to attendance at antenatal classes (see chapter 3).
Older mothers and mothers from couple families were more likely to say that they had attended a group than lone parents and younger mothers. For example, 30% of mothers in their twenties and 29% of lone parents had attended a group compared with 54% of mothers in their thirties and 53% of parents in couple families respectively.
Attendance at a parent and baby/toddler group also varied by parental level of education and household income. As income and level of education increased so too did a parent's likelihood of attending one of these groups. 22% of mothers with no qualifications attended a group compared with 66% of mothers with a degree.
Area played some role in attendance at these groups. Parents living in urban areas were less likely to attend a parent and baby/toddler group than those parents living in rural or small remote towns.
First-time parents were more likely to attend a parent and baby/toddler group than parents with other children (57% in comparison to 39%).
|Yes||No||Base: all families|
|Under 20 %||30||70||340|
|20-29 years old %||44||54||2552|
|30-39 years old %||54||44||2948|
|Over 40 years old %||49||51||267|
|Parental level of education|
|No qualification %||22||78||389|
|Lower level Standard grades %||27||73||341|
|Upper level Standard grades %||35||65||1255|
|Higher grades or equivalent %||51||49||1749|
|Degree or above %||64||36||2222|
|Mother's first born child|
|Yes, first born %||57||43||2918|
|No, other children %||39||61||3199|
|Urban rural classification|
|Large urban %||45||55||2270|
|Other urban %||44||56||1777|
|Small accessible towns %||51||49||491|
|Small remote towns %||55||45||248|
|Accessible rural %||58||42||977|
|Remote rural %||52||48||353|
Reasons for non-attendance
Those parents (52%) who had not attended a parent and baby/toddler group were asked why from a list of answers provided. The results are shown in Table 5.5.
The most common reason given was lack of time, mentioned by 30% of parents. 16% reported that there was no particular reason for not attending a parent-baby/toddler group and 12% reported that they just simply did not want to go.
|% of respondents mentioned|
|No particular reason||16|
|Did not want to go||12|
|Feel shy or awkward||11|
|Don't like groups||10|
|Know it all already||9|
|Had no information||8|
|Someone else took child||2|
|Base: respondents who had not attended a parent-baby/toddler group in the last 12 months||3076|
Older mothers, mothers in couple families, mothers with other children and in employment were more likely than younger mothers, lone mothers and those where the cohort child was the only child and non-working mothers, to say that they had no time to go to a parent and baby/toddler group.
Around one in ten parents (11%) who did not attend parent and baby/toddler groups said they felt too shy or awkward to do so. Younger mothers, lone mothers and those with a lower level of education were more likely to cite this as reason for non attendance. For example, 28% of mothers in their twenties said they felt shy or awkward compared with 5% of mothers aged 40 or older. Younger mothers may lack confidence overall and may also lack confidence in their role as a parent. Previous research using GUS data indicates that parents who have less confidence in their parenting skills tend to be more reticent to use formal services (Mabelis and Marryat 2011). In addition, younger mothers may be put off by groups simply because there are not many parents of their age in these groups.
Base - all parents who had not attended a parent and baby/toddler group: under 20 = 234, 20-29 = 1390, 30-39 = 1313, Over 40 = 135. Bases varied slightly on each question
5.4.2 Parenting classes and programmes
Parents were asked whether they had attended a programme, group or seminar on child development, child behaviour, or parenting during the past 12 months. Figure 5.4 shows that the majority of parents (70%) had not participated in any of these classes or programmes in the last year. 23% of parents had attended one class or programme and a small number (2%) had attended between three and six of these programmes. Of those who attended any class or programme, most (87%) went on their own, without their husband, wife or partner.
Base - all parents, n=6117
The types of parenting programmes and classes that parents attended are shown in
Table 5.6. The most commonly attended programme or class was baby massage, attended by 24% of all parents.
Overall the number of children a parent affected their participation in a parenting programme or class. First-time parents were more likely to participate in a parenting programme or class than parents with an older child (80% compared with 59%). However, if we look at these differences between the types of classes attended, the main difference relates to attendance at baby massage; 34% of new parents went to baby massage compared with 14% of parents with other children. Attendance at other types of parenting classes and programmes was otherwise at similar levels between first-time parents and parents of other children.
|% of all families mentioned||% mentioned amongst first time parents||% mentioned amongst parents of other children|
|Have not attended anything||70||59||80|
|Triple P-Positive Parenting Programme||1||1||2|
|Tuneful Tots (music classes/rhymes)||2||3||1|
|PEEP parent education||1||1||1|
|Base: as detailed in top row||6117||2925||3198|
Attendance at the most commonly attended class - baby massage - was examined in relation to a number of different socio-economic characteristics. Generally, participation in baby massage mirrored patterns seen in the attendance of the parent and baby/toddler groups (section 1.4.1). That is, older mothers were more likely to attend baby massage than younger mothers (29% of mothers aged 40 or over compared with 16% of mothers under 20). 33% of parents with a degree went to baby massage whilst 10% of parents with no qualifications attended this type of class.
Given that parents mostly have to pay for baby massage classes themselves, it is not surprising that income also played a role in participation. 36% of parents in the highest income quartile went to baby massage compared with 14% of parents in the lowest income quartile. 34% of parents who worked full-time attended baby massage compared with 16% of parents who did not work, which again, might reflect the cost of these classes.
Parents from couple families were also more likely to go to baby massage than single parents (26% compared with 14%). There were also differences by ethnicity - 25% of white parents attended baby massage compared with 8% of parents of other ethnicities.
There were no differences between attendance at baby massage between parents living in different urban and rural areas.
Programme information and referral
As shown in Table 5.7, 44% of parents indicated that they had heard about their class or programme from their health visitor or midwife. More informal, word-of-mouth sources were also important - 33% of parents who attended simply said they had "heard about it and went along to find out more".
|Heard about it and went along to find out more||33|
|Friends/family members/other mums||6|
|Social worker referral||3|
|Base: respondents who had participated in a parenting programme||1933|
Likely participation in the future
All parents were asked how likely it was that they would participate in a parenting programme in the future. Just over half (54%) stated that it was either not at all or not very likely. Figure 5.5 shows that those parents who had previously taken part in a parenting class or programme tended to be in favour of attending a group in the future; 70% would either be quite or very likely to do so compared with 46% of parents who had not taken part in a parenting class or programme.
Bases: all parents = 5936, attended a parenting group = 1886, did not attend a parenting group = 4049
To better understand any potential barriers to participating in parenting classes or groups, those parents who said that they were either not at all likely/not very likely to attend such a class in the future were asked the reasons why.
The most common reason given for not being likely to attend a programme in the future was lack of time, stated by 25% of those who were unlikely to attend (Table 5.8). 22% indicated that they did not need to go to such a programme, in some cases because they already had other children. 13% of parents stated that they were just not interested in going.
|I do not have time||25|
|Don't need to/not first child||22|
|I'm just not interested/don't want to||13|
|I'm managing ok||8|
|Nobody told me/I don't know anything about them||8|
|I don't like groups||5|
|There are no groups in this area||3|
|Other reasons (specific)||27|
|Base: Parents who stated that they were not at all likely/not very likely to participate in a parenting programme in the future||3192|
Two specific reasons given for not participating in a parenting programme in the future were analysed according to different socio-economic characteristics:
- "I'm just not that interested"
- "Nobody told me about them/I don't know anything about them"
The former shows a lack of interest in parenting classes whilst the latter shows a lack of information or awareness of classes.
As shown in Table 5.9, younger parents, lone parents and parents with a lower level of education and household income were more likely to say that they were not interested in attending these groups. A greater proportion of parents who did not work (19%) gave this as a reason compared with 9% of parents working full-time.
The extent to which parents said that they had not been told about these groups as a reason for not attending in the future varied according to parental education and household income. 11% of parents with a degree said that they were not aware of these groups compared with 5% of parents with no qualifications. This is somewhat surprising because the expectation would usually be that more educated parents have more awareness of services. However, it may also reflect that for this small group, the biggest barrier to attending a group is lack of knowledge rather than a lack of interest.
| Just not interested |
|Base: all respondents unlikely to attend parenting class in future|
|20-29 years old||15||1238|
|30-39 years old||10||1624|
|Over 40 years old||8||167|
|Parental level of education|
|Lower level Standard grades or equivalent||27||178|
|Upper level Standard grades or equivalent||19||667|
|Higher grades or equivalent||11||864|
|Degree or above||6||1184|
|Number of children in household|
|2 or 3||11||1847|
|4 or more||12||174|
5.5 Other sources of parenting support/advice
Parents were asked about their use of other sources of formal support. More specifically, they were asked whether they had used certain government sponsored schemes and initiatives aimed at helping parents and families. These are shown in Table 5.10 below.
Nearly one third of parents (29%) had either looked at the ChildSmile website or used ChildSmile dental services. 16% of parents had used the Play@Home booklets whilst 8% remembered looking at the Play, Talk, Read website.
58% of parents indicated that they had not used any of these services. Parents with no qualifications were less likely to have used these services than parents educated to a degree level (70% had not used any compared with 54%). There were also differences in use by ethnicity: 73% of white parents had not used these sources compared with 57% of parents from another ethnic background.
|None of these services||58|
|ChildSmile website or dental services||29|
|Play, Talk, Read website||8|
|Childcare Link website or phoneline||2|
|ParentLine Scotland website or phoneline||1|
Bookbug Baby, run by the Scottish Book Trust, is a programme which aims to encourage parents to read and sing to their baby from an early age. All parents are given, by their health visitor, a Bookbug pack that contains two board books, a CD of songs and rhymes, a buggy book and calendar. 78% of parents remembered receiving the Bookbug pack. These parents were then asked how they used the pack. Overall 93% of parents read the books with their child. 20% had read the book once with their child whilst 73% of parents regularly did so (Table 5.11).
|Read the books once with my child||20|
|Read the books regularly with my child||73|
|Read the Bookbug magazine||26|
|Listened to the music CD once with my child||21|
|Listened to the music CD regularly with my child||22|
|Put the poster up on the wall||10|
|Don't know/can't remember||2|
|Didn't use it at all||6|
|Base: parents who remembered receiving the Bookbug Pack||4738|
5.5.1 Preferred method for receiving information
All parents were asked how they liked to receive information or advice about parenting and were asked to select their single, preferred method (Table 5.12). Receiving information in person - either via formal services or informal networks - was by far the most preferred approach. 53% of parents said they preferred to receive information about parenting on a one-to-one basis from a professional such as a health visitor. 21% stated that they preferred to receive information in person from family and friends.
Parents living in the most deprived areas preferred to receive information in person, one-to-one, from a professional (preferred by 58% of parents in this category). Parents with lower levels of education were also more likely to prefer this method, than parents educated to degree level (60% compared with 44%).
When compared with older mothers, younger mothers tended to prefer receiving information about parenting in person from family or friends. For example, 28% of mothers aged under 20 preferred this approach compared with 12% of mothers in their forties.
|In person, on a one-to-one basis from someone like a health visitor||53|
|In person from family or friends||21|
|Books, magazines, or leaflets||7|
|In person at a seminar or group||4|
|TV programmes or DVD||1|
|Base: all families||6107|
5.6 Satisfaction with parenting support
Generally, parents stated that they were satisfied with the information and support services available to them about parenting. Only 6% of parents indicated that that they were dissatisfied (fairly or very) with the information available to them and 8% were dissatisfied with the services available to support (Table 5.13).
Around a fifth (17% and 20%) respectively said they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with the information and services on offer, which may indicate a lack of knowledge and/or awareness of the support which is available. There were no significant differences in levels of satisfaction between parents of different socio-economic groups.
|...information available to you about parenting||…the services available to support you in your role as a parent?|
|Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied||17||20|
|Base: all families||6092||6057|
5.7 Attitudes towards support
Parents were asked the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements on how comfortable they were seeking support and engaging with support services. The statements asked are shown below:
- "If you ask for help or advice on parenting from professionals like doctors or social workers, they start interfering or trying to take over"
- "Professionals like health visitors and social workers do not offer parents enough advice and support with bringing up their children"
- "If other people knew you were getting professional advice or support with parenting, they would probably think you were a bad parent"
- "It's difficult to ask people for help or advice unless you know them really well."
- "It's hard to know who to ask for help or advice about being a parent."
As shown in Figure 5.6, parents were most likely to have difficulty asking for advice or establishing who to ask. 27% agreed that it was difficult to ask for help or advice and 19% agreed that it was hard to know who to ask.
Base - all parents, n = 6079. Note that bases varied slightly on each item. This figure relates to the statement with the lowest response: "If you ask for help from professionals they start interfering"
There was lower agreement with the more negative perceptions associated with seeking support such as stigma, interference from formal services, and lack of formal support. 16% of parents agreed that by seeking formal help, others would think you were a bad parent, 15% felt that professionals did not offer parents enough advice and support, and 10% agreed that asking for help from formal sources would lead to interference in family life.
Table 5.14 shows the proportion of parents in different subgroups who either agreed or strongly agreed with the statements.
As shown in a previous GUS report (Mabelis and Marryat 2011), younger parents, lone parents, parents with lower levels of education and income were generally less comfortable engaging with formal support and more likely to perceive a stigma attached to seeking formal support.
For example, 31% of parents aged under 20 agreed that people would think you were a bad parent if they knew you were getting professional support with parenting compared with 13% of parents aged over 40. In addition, 39% of parents in the lowest income quintile agreed that it was difficult to ask for advice compared with 18% of parents in the top income quintile.
There were also differences in perceptions of potential 'interference' from formal agencies. 24% of parents under 20 agreed with this statement compared with 7% of parents aged 40 and over.
There were also differences between parents of different ethnic backgrounds. Parents from other ethnic backgrounds were less likely to think that people would think badly of you if you sought help than white parents (7% versus 16% respectively) but were more likely to agree that it was difficult to ask for help (40%) than white parents (26%).
|People think you are a bad parent||Difficult to ask for advice||If you ask for help they start interfering||Bases|
|Under 20 %||31||43||24||337|
|20-29 years old %||17||29||13||2536|
|30-39 years old %||12||23||5||2933|
|Over 40 years old %||13||21||7||263|
|Parental level of education|
|No qualification %||26||43||22||386|
|Lower level Standard grades %||25||39||18||338|
|Upper level Standard grades %||20||31||14||1247|
|Higher grades or equivalent %||15||23||9||1736|
|Degree or above %||10||21||4||2215|
|Lone parent %||25||37||17||1129|
|Couple family %||13||24||8||4950|
|Number of children in family|
|Two or three %||17||29||10||3032|
|Four or more %||21||33||16||256|
|Household equivalised income|
|Bottom quintile %||24||39||18||1120|
|Other background %||7||40||16||299|
Bases varied slightly on each item. Those shown relate to the statement: "If you ask for help from professionals they start interfering".
Grandparents are known to be a key source of support for parents. Findings detailed earlier in chapter 2 showed that virtually all children had at least one grandparent alive at the time of the interview, 53% had four grandparents, and 13% had more than four. In addition, a grandparent lived with the child in 6% of families.
The age and employment status of grandparents may be expected to influence the level and type of support they provide. On average, maternal grandmothers were aged 56 years old, whilst maternal grandfathers were a little older at 58. Paternal grandparents tended to be older; paternal grandmothers had a mean age of 59 and paternal grandfathers a mean age of 61. 50% of maternal grandmothers and 60% of maternal grandfathers were employed.
5.8.1 Contact with grandparents
As shown in Table 5.15, all children in BC2, bar a very small number (less than 1%), were in regular contact with at least some of their grandparents including 67% who had regular contact with all of them and 33% with some. Children in BC2 were slightly less likely than those in BC1 to have contact with all of their grandparents - decreasing from 71% to 67%.
Children were most likely to be in contact with a grandmother, particularly their maternal grandmother (90% compared with 73% who were in contact with a paternal grandmother). Contact with grandfathers was lower, especially paternal grandfathers with whom only a little over half of children had contact (53% compared with 70% who had contact with a maternal grandfather).
Children in BC2 were less likely than those in BC1 to have all of their grandparents living locally - dropping from 48% to 42% (Table 5.15). Proximity of grandparents will undoubtedly affect the extent to which they have contact with their grandchildren which may partly explain the change in contact figures shown above. Indeed, amongst children in BC2 for whom all grandparents lived locally, 79% had contact with all of them. In contrast, for those where only some grandparents lived locally, 58% had contact with all of them.
We noted earlier (in section 2.3), that children in BC2 tended to have more grandparents than those in BC1 (13% had more than four compared with 4% in BC1). The data shows that, as may be expected, those children with a greater number of grandparents were less likely to have contact with all of them. For example, whereas 70% of children with two grandparents had contact with all of them, the same was true for 46% of those with five or more grandparents. Thus, the increased number of grandparents reported by BC2 parents may also explain the change in contact levels. It is possible that more 'peripheral' grandparent relationships were being recognised by parents in BC2 where there is no or little contact between child and grandparent.
| BC1 |
| BC2 |
|Grandparents in regular contact with|
|Grandparents who live locally|
|Grandparents that child has a close relationship with|
*Bases vary slightly on each item. Those shown are the lowest of the three.
Despite a lower likelihood of contact with all grandparents, children in BC2 were very slightly (and statistically significantly) more likely than those in BC1 to have a close relationship with all of their grandparents (42% compared with 40%). However, a small proportion of children (6%) did not have a close relationship with any of their grandparents.
As well as proximity and number of grandparents, a range of other factors affected whether or not children had contact with all of their grandparents. Parental separation was a key influence. Children with a non-resident father, for example, did not always have contact with their paternal grandparents. 41% of children in lone parent families had contact with all of their grandparents compared with 73% of those in couple families.
Children with younger mothers also had contact with fewer grandparents than those with older mothers. 41% of children whose mother was aged under 20 at the time of birth had contact with all of their grandparents compared with 75% of those who mother was aged between 30 and 39. Some of this difference is explained by the greater likelihood of an absent parent in families with younger mothers (noted in section 2.3). However, even amongst families where both biological parents live in the household, contact with all grandparents was lower in families with younger mothers (Figure 5.7).
Bases: All families - under 20 = 340, 20 to 29 = 2550, 30 to 39 = 2950, 40 or older = 267; Families with two biological parents in household - under 20 = 108, 20 to 29 = 1939, 30 to 39 = 2668, 40 or older = 231
Contact with all grandparents was also less likely amongst families living in areas of higher deprivation. 57% of those who lived in an area in the most deprived quintile had contact with all grandparents compared with 78% of those living in the least deprived quintiles. Again, even amongst those families with two biological parents in the household, these trends persisted.
After controlling for differences in family type by urban-rural classification (families in urban areas tend are more likely to have an absent parent), there were only small differences in the extent to which children living in different areas had contact with all of their grandparents.
Frequency of contact
After identifying who each set of grandparents was in relation to the child, and whether or not the child had contact with each set of grandparents, detailed information was collected on the frequency of that contact. Due to limitations of space, and to allow for comparison with BC1, data on each set of grandparents was merged to allow consideration of frequency of contact with any grandparent.
As shown in Figure 5.8, most children (81%) had contact with a grandparent at least once a week or more often, including 44% who had daily contact. There was no notable change in frequency of contact between the two cohorts.
Bases: BC1 = 5176, BC2 = 6095
Children in lone parent families and those with younger mothers had more frequent contact with a grandparent than did children in couple families and those with older mothers. 63% of children in a lone parent family saw a grandparent most days compared with 40% of children in a couple family. Similarly, 69% of children whose mother was under 20 saw a grandparent most days compared with 36% of those whose mother was in her thirties.
At least some of these differences are explained by variations in the extent to which a grandparent is resident in the household with the child, particularly by maternal age. 29% of teenage mothers lived in the same household as one of the child's grandparents compared with 2% of mothers in their thirties. However, when analysis was restricted to those families where a grandparents is not resident with the child, the same trends remain.
5.8.2 Support received from grandparents
To measure the different types and levels of support offered by the child's grandparents, parents were asked a number of questions about how often the child's grandparents babysat and had the child to stay overnight, and whether they ever took the child out, bought toys or clothes for the child, helped out around the house, helped out financially or helped by providing advice or support. The results, by cohort, are displayed in Table 5.16.
|BC1 %||BC2 %|
|How often look after child during the day|
|Every day or almost every day||20||15|
|At least once a week||37||41|
|At least once a month||14||16|
|At least once every three months||5||6|
|Less than once every three months||4||7|
|How often babysit for child in the evening|
|Every day or almost every day||3||2|
|At least once a week||16||16|
|At least once a month||28||27|
|At least once every three months||14||15|
|Less than once every three months||9||12|
|Taken the cohort child on outings or daytrips without you||54||63|
|Bought toys, clothes or equipment for the cohort child apart from on special occasions like birthdays||90||93|
|Helped out around the house - for example by cooking, cleaning or doing DIY||44||69|
|Helped out financially in some other way||41||57|
|Helped by providing advice or support||N/A||80|
|Base: all families*||5171||6099|
*Bases varied slightly on each item. Those shown are the lowest amongst all items.
It is clear that grandparents provide a wide range of support to families, though some forms are more prevalent than others. Most common are buying toys or equipment for the child (93%), looking after the child during the day (84% get this support at least sometimes), and more generally providing advice or support (80%). Grandparents frequently provided care for the children. 56% looked after the child at least once a week and 45% babysat at least once a month.
The likelihood of having ever received each type of support was greater for parents in BC2 than parents in BC1. The most notable changes are in relation to helping out around the house - which increased from 44% to 69% - and helping out financially - which increased from 41% to 57%. Figures for the more common types of support (childcare, babysitting and buying things) were more similar between cohorts.
To allow an easier comparison of how levels of support from grandparents varied across different families, as well as considering responses on individual questions, each item was converted into a scale and all items added together to give an overall index of 'grandparental support'. A higher score on the index indicated a higher level of support from grandparents. Scores on the index ranged from a potential minimum of zero to a potential maximum of 14.
The average score on the scale for BC2 was 7.8 compared with 7.3 for BC1. This reflects the higher reporting of each individual support item shown in Table 5.16 and noted above.
As may be expected, contact with and proximity of grandparents affected the level of support families received from them. The average score on the support scale for those families in contact with all of the child's grandparents was 8.0, slightly - but statistically significantly - higher than for families only in contact with some grandparents, who had a mean score of 7.6. Proximity had a greater influence. Families where all grandparents lived locally scored an average of 8.8 compared with 7.1 for those who had some grandparents living locally.
Scores on the scale did vary according to differences in grandparental employment, though perhaps not in the direction expected. Levels of support were higher in cases where the maternal grandmother was in employment than where she was not (mean scores of 8.5 and 7.6). The same pattern was evident in relation to the whether maternal grandfather was employed. Differences emerged, in particular, in the extent to which the child was taken on outings or daytrips by the grandparent. This was reported by 71% of parents where the maternal grandmother was employed compared with 59% where she was not employed.
Support also varied according to a range of family characteristics. For example, lone parents reported significantly higher levels of support than those in couple families (mean scores of 8.5 and 7.7 respectively). A key difference between lone parent and couple families was in the frequency that grandparents looked after the child during the day. 24% of lone parents reported a grandparent looking after the child every day compared with 12% of parents in couple families. However, much of the difference by family type is accounted for by differences in the extent to which a grandparent lives with the child. After excluding those cases, there is no significant difference in the mean grandparent support score. Nevertheless, some differences remain on individual items. Across all families where no grandparent is resident, lone parents are significantly more likely than those in couple families to get support from grandparents in the form of weekly babysitting (25% compared with 12%) and financial help (61% compared with 54%).
There was also variation by maternal age at the child's birth (Figure 5.9). Families where the mother was younger tended to report higher levels of support from grandparents than those with older mothers. Indeed, the mean score for mothers aged under 20 was almost twice as high as that for mothers aged 40 or older. As the graph shows, these differences persisted even amongst those families that did not live with a grandparent. As shown in section 2.3, children with older mothers tended to have fewer grandparents which limits the pool of support available and explains some of the differences seen here. Children with younger mothers also tended to have younger grandparents than children with older mothers. By virtue of their younger age, these grandparents are perhaps more likely to be able to provide a wider range of support more frequently. The largest differences were in relation to childcare, taking the child on trips or outings and providing financial support. For example, 76% of mothers aged under 20 and 69% of mothers aged 20 to 29 said a grandparent had taken the child on an outing or daytrip compared with 57% of mothers in their thirties and 43% of mothers aged 40 or older.
Bases: All families - under 20 = 340, 20 to 29 = 2549, 30 to 39 = 2947, 40 or older = 267; Families with no grandparents in household - under 20 = 245, 20 to 29 = 2362, 30 to 39 = 2898, 40 or older = 259
First-time mothers reported a significantly higher level of support from grandparents than did mothers with other children, scoring an average of 8.5 on the scale compared with 7.2. This remained even amongst families where a grandparent was not resident. Statistically significant differences of around 10 percentage points were found on each individual type of support with the exception of buying toys or equipment where the difference was 5 percentage points.
Bases: first born = 2918, other children = 3195
There were no statistically significant differences in mean scores on the support scale according to area deprivation. However, some small differences were found in relation to area urban-rural characteristics. The highest levels of support were reported by families living in other urban areas (mean score of 8.2); small, accessible towns (8.1) and accessible rural areas (7.9). Those living in small, remote towns (6.9) and remote rural areas (7.3) scored lowest, and families in large urban areas emerged in between (7.6). As may be expected, the largest differences between those living in other urban areas and those in small, remote towns were seen in the types of support which required the physical presence of a grandparent - looking after the child, and helping out around the house. 61% of families living in other urban areas said a grandparent looked after the child at least once a week and 71% said a grandparent had helped out around the house compared with 46% and 57% of families in small, remote towns respectively.
Most parents indicated that they were satisfied with the support and information available to them in their role as a parent. However, there are clear differences in the use of support services and attitudes towards formal services between parents of different socio-economic backgrounds.
Whilst attendance at the parent and baby/toddler groups had increased since BC1, there were still socio-economic divisions between those parents who were more and less likely to attend. Typically, lone parents, younger parents, parents from lower income households and with lower levels of education did not attend these groups. These patterns were also evident in attendance at other parenting-related classes and groups, including those which offered parenting support or information, and in the use of government sponsored parenting resources such as websites and phonelines. In many cases, those parents who the data suggests are less engaged with parenting services are also those who require greater support. Furthermore, their lower use of such resources may stem from their lower willingness to seek out and use formal support. It appears that more work is needed to reach these parents. With the provision of information and support on a one-to-one basis preferred by many, it may be worthwhile building on the role, or model, of the health visitor in this respect.
Nearly all parents, irrespective of socio-economic differences, had contact with a health visitor during their child's first year. In the majority of cases this was a well received, positive source of support. For those parents who participated in a parenting programme or group, most had heard about it from their health visitor. Thus the health visitor is a visible and accessible source of support for most parents and plays an important role in doing so - by making a parent's early experience of support a positive one and by increasing awareness of parental sources of support and advice (whether this be through websites, giving out booklets or packs, such as BookBug or recommending local groups or classes).
In recent years, there has been a shift to providing information and support online. GUS data shows, however, that most parents preferred to receive information in person, whether this be from a professional or from an informal source of support (family member of friend). Interestingly, parents living in the most deprived areas and parents with lower levels of education preferred to receive information from professionals but it is also these groups that tend to be warier of seeking formal support and involving professionals.
It is important to acknowledge that parents have varying needs and will respond to different types of support in different ways. It seems necessary, therefore, to offer a range of different support services so that parents can choose what suits them best and what they feel most comfortable with. The various parenting programmes, groups and classes will appeal differently to different parents, and the idea of a more formal class or group will be entirely unappealing for some. The idea of informal support networks such as Community Mothers could be built upon in this respect (Mabelis and Marryat 2011).
For various reasons some parents are not comfortable with the idea of seeking or needing 'support'. It is therefore important to think about how parenting support is offered to avoid stigmatisation. The provision of support in an informal and practical way that does not appear to 'support' is a possible solution. For example, the provision of physical resources such as the BookBug pack may be more useful to parents than an internet site or a professional advising them to read to their child.
At the age of 10 months, most children in Scotland have contact with at least some of their grandparents and many have contact with all of them. Previous analysis of GUS data (Jamieson et al. 2012; Bradshaw et al. 2009) has consistently shown how grandparents provide a key source of support for families with young children. This continues to be the case with families in BC2, though it is evident that some families draw more heavily on this support than others, particularly lone parents, younger mothers and first-time mothers. These are some of the same characteristics of those families who are less likely to have contact with all of the child's grandparents meaning that, in many cases, a higher level of reliance is being placed on a more limited resource.
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Mabelis, J. and Marryat, L. (2011) Growing Up in Scotland: Parental service use and informal networks in the early years. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.
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Email: Sharon Glen