Young teens have better relationships with parents than a decade ago – report

Young Teens Have Better Relationships With Parents Than A Decade Ago – Report
The research by the ESRI found that mothers and fathers reported much lower levels of conflict with their teenage children over time. Photo: PA Images
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Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Research indicates that 13-year-olds have better relationships with their parents than they did a decade ago, but also have fewer close friends.

A study carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and produced with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Inclusion and Youth drew on data from the Growing Up in Ireland survey.


It compared 13-year-olds in 2011/12 and 2021/22, contrasting the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions, digitalisation and reform of the junior cycle.

It found that mothers and fathers reported much lower levels of conflict with their teenage children over time.

Conflict levels reduced across all social cohorts, with the greatest improvement among more disadvantaged groups. The exception was among families experiencing financial strain where conflict levels were stable over time.

Parents are more likely to explain what the young person has done wrong (63 per cent always doing so compared with 49 per cent) and much less likely to use punitive approaches like grounding (69 per cent never doing so compared with 59 per cent) or shouting at the young person (41 per cent never doing so compared with 28 per cent).


Young people also reported having smaller friendship groups than previously: the number with large peer groups fell from 55 per cent to 38 per cent and the number with a large group of close friends (more than six) fell from 26 per cent to 14 per cent.

The recent cohort of young people had experienced junior cycle reform as well as a change in approaches to teaching and learning at both primary and second-level, and there were increased levels of interest in English (44 per cent to 51 per cent), Maths (32 per cent to 42 per cent), and Science (60 per cent to 68 per cent).

There was also a decline in the proportion of girls who say they like school very much (from 35 per cent to 24 per cent), which the ESRI said was “at least partly related to increased emotional difficulties over time among girls”.

On digitalisation, there has been a shift away from traditional media, such as watching TV, but also playing video/computer games, towards other screen time on a phone or other device.


High levels of screen time are generally associated with less involvement in sport and cultural activities.

There has been an increase in the number of 13-year-olds involved weekly in organised sports, from 65 per cent to 70 per cent, and stable levels of engagement in cultural activities, such as drama and dance, with over a third of young people involved in these pursuits.

There is evidence that a significant number of young people rarely read for pleasure. Almost half of boys from working-class or jobless households say that they read less than once a week or never.

Dr Emer Smyth, author of the report said: “There are very encouraging findings of better-quality relationships between teenagers and their parents, with less conflict and greater discussion.


“However, financial pressures continue to be a source of friction in families.

“In addition, young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to take part in the kinds of out-of-school activities (like hard exercise and cultural engagement) that enhance their development, highlighting the need for subsidised activities in communities and supports for schools to provide access to a range of extracurricular options.”

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman welcomed the launch of the report.

“I hope that this report will inform policy making across Government on areas such as highlighting the importance of physical exercise in young people, the effects of the pandemic restrictions as well as the impact of screen time on their psycho-social development,” the Minister said.


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