Tackling child poverty delivery plan: fourth year progress report 2021-2022 - focus report on households with mothers aged 25 or under

Evidence about child poverty in households with a mother aged 25 or under. The report presents the latest data on the child poverty targets and includes further evidence on the drivers of child poverty among this priority group.

Child poverty rates in households with a mother aged under 25

Child poverty can affect every aspect of a child's life and create stressful home environments which impact on the mental health in the longer term.[2] Households with children with a mother aged under 25 are known to be at particularly high risk of poverty. [3]

Over half (55%) of children in households with a mother aged under 25 were in relative poverty in 2015-18, compared to 24% of children overall.[4] This is notably higher than for any of our other priority family groups, all of whom are also at higher risk of poverty. Children in households with a mother aged under 25 are also at higher risk of absolute poverty and of combined low income and material deprivation, as Table 1 shows.

Table 1: Proportion of children in Scotland who are in different types of poverty (2015-18). Small base sizes and the impact of the pandemic on survey data collection mean that latest available data for this household group is from 2015-18

All children

Children in a household with a mother under 25

Relative poverty



Absolute poverty



Combined low income and material deprivation



In Scotland, the number of mothers aged under 25 has been slightly decreasing over the years. This makes sample sizes for analysis small and volatile. For that reason, the child poverty rates combine several years. For persistent poverty, however, the sample sizes are too small in all periods, and therefore there is no available data for this group.

This report does not include trends over time in child poverty rates for mothers aged under 25 as the data is too volatile to provide meaningful information.

Before focusing on what we know about the specific characteristics and barriers faced by families with a mother aged under 25, it is important to acknowledge the adverse impact of inequalities for children.

By the time children start school, those living in poverty are generally already disadvantaged when compared to children from more affluent households.[5] Inequalities in cognitive and socio-emotional development emerge early in life.[6]

Early childhood is a critical period for laying healthy foundations for subsequent cognitive, social, emotional and physical development and functioning, which in turn play key roles in shaping people's economic, social and health trajectories.

Mothers play an important role in contributing to the next generation's trajectories, but they need to be supported by a strong system. As the system currently stands, there are various challenges young mothers may face. A recent publication[7] suggests that there needs to be a balance between policies that boost income from employment and interventions targeting inequalities in children's early childhood environments. The research suggests that policies should focus on three main pillars:

  • Comprehensive support for families in early parenting to foster development of strong attachment and parent-child relationships.
  • Boosting income and reducing social segregation for example through housing policy.
  • High quality mental health care.

Some families, including those with mothers under 25, can experience multiple disadvantages or adversities. These can include homelessness, child protection interventions, child removals, stigma, trauma, marginalisation, substance dependency, domestic violence and mental health problems. These families are often among those deepest in poverty and face particularly challenging journeys to get out. For families experiencing multiple disadvantages or adversities, these issues are often deeply interconnected, overlapping and intersecting with each other and with poverty in complex ways. Although there is not a simple causal relationship between these issues and poverty, multiple disadvantages and adversities can make it harder to get out of poverty and poverty can also make it harder to overcome adversities.[8] [9] [10]


Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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