Families of multiple births face significant financial hardship according to a major new study by researchers from the University of Birmingham. 'The Effects of Twins and Multiple Births Families and Their Living Standards', which is supported by the Twin and Multiple Births Association, found that families with multiple births were more likely to report a drop in their income level following the birth of their children. They were also twice as likely as families of singletons to report ‘quite difficult’ financial stress.
The report also found that twins and triplets experienced higher levels of material deprivation, and their families were more likely to separate or divorce.
The report analysed the datasets of The Millennium Cohort Study and the annual Family Resources Survey (2004-2007), the Government’s key source of statistics on poverty and low income (see Note 3). It found:
62% of multiple birth families said they were financially worse off after their babies were born, compared with 40% of other parents. Families with a multiple birth were nearly twice as likely to say they were finding the financial pressures ‘quite difficult’ (13% compared to 7% of families of singletons where the mothers were age-matched, and 8% of all families with singletons).
Between 2004 and 2007, the poorest quarter of all families were living on £192 per week or less, but the poorest quarter of families with twins or triplets had to get by with £181 per week or less.
Families with multiple births reported higher levels of material deprivation, and lower well-being for their children. Nearly half (48%) of those raising twins or triplets had used up some or all of their savings, compared with 37% of all families. Nonetheless, they were more likely to be unable to afford key items for their children, and to have more arrears on their bills. Whilst 60% of families could afford all of a dozen key child-related items, this was true of only 55% of those with twins.
Nine months after giving birth, mothers of multiple births were nearly 20% less likely to have returned to work than mothers of singletons. There was a greater expectation that paid work would have to wait until their children were aged five, i.e., at full-time primary school. Many mothers tell Tamba that the cost of childcare for twins or triplets means that their families would lose even more money if they returned to work sooner.
The report also revealed that parents of a multiple birth are more likely to separate or divorce – 28% of the ever-married had divorced or separated among multiple birth families, compared with 24% for other families with children. Financial distress tends to be among the most commonly cited reasons for family breakdown.
In February 2010, a separate survey found that parents are likely to have to spend more than £201,000 on raising a (singleton) child from birth to the age of 21, with an average spend of £54,696 on childcare for one child (See Note 4). Unlike many countries throughout Europe, including the Republic of Ireland, there are no additional state support or benefits for families having a multiple birth (See Note 5).
Suzanne Pammen, mother of twins, commented:
“We love our twin boys dearly, but have spent much of the last two years sick with worry, just trying to give them the basics. We have good jobs and are careful with money, and yet we’ve racked up nearly £40,000 of debts. Childcare is extortionate – we would be financially better off if I gave up work and claimed benefits. But what kind of example is that to set to my boys?
Keith Reed, Chief Executive of the Twins and Multiple Births Association (Tamba), commented:
”The main parties say they are committed to strong families, and helping mothers back to work, but many families with multiple births are in dire straits because successive Governments have ignored their needs.
“Urgent measures are required to ensure that the UK’s twins, triplets and other multiple births no longer pay the price for a short-sighted one-size-fits-all approach. We call on the Government to join other countries, like the Republic of Ireland, in supporting families of multiple births with common sense measures, including amendments to child benefit provisions and support for those who wish to use preschool or other childcare providers so that they can return to work.”
The study's author, Professor Stephen McKay of the University of Birmingham commented:
“The report found that twins and triplets are more likely to be born to married and older couples, who are in paid employment. These factors should provide some degree of ‘protection’ against low incomes and deprivation, so it is deeply concerning that twins or triplets are experiencing greater levels of material deprivation than singletons, and that their families are at greater risk of separation and divorce.
“This report highlights the measures that other countries use to support the families of multiple births.”
For further information contact: Ben Hill, Press Officer, University of Birmingham, Tel 0121 4145134, Mob 07789 921163
1. Tamba is the national organisation working to help parents and professionals to meet the unique challenges that multiple birth families face. The support it provides parents includes the Twinline (open 10am – 1pm and 7pm-10pm) and website with forums for expectant and new mums. The Twinline number is 0800 138 0509 and the website is http://www.tamba.org.uk/
2. Stephen McKay is Professor of Social Research in the University’s School of Social Policy. Professor McKay has wide research interests covering inequality, employment, social security, wealth and the balance between state, family and self-provision (such as in pensions and child support). He has particular expertise in the secondary analysis of complex datasets.
3. 'The Effects of Twins and Multiple Births Families and Their Living Standards' analyses the datasets of two large-scale Government surveys: a)The Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), which is following a group of 18500 children born in 2000/2001, with interviews when the children are aged 9 months, three years, five years, and continuing and (b) the annual Family Resources Survey (FRS), which covers over 25,000 households with over 16,000 children, and is the key source of statistics on poverty and low income. Some of the results are adjusted to compensate for the fact that multiple births are more common among older mothers, who are more likely to be married than for other families.
4. The cost of raising a baby: In February 2010, the annual survey from insurance and investment group LV= on the Cost of a Child, showed that, for the first time, parents are likely to spend more than £201,000 on raising a singleton child from birth to the age of 21. Childcare costs remain the biggest single drain on the family's resources, and could cost as much as £54,696 for one child between the ages of six months and 16 for a typical household where both parents are working. New parents also face a £9,152 bill during the first twelve months of a child's life, whilst between the ages of 1 and 4, a child costs around £13,014 per year.
5. Support for families with multiple births in the UK and Europe: In the UK, parents of multiple babies receive no additional entitlement to benefits or parental leave. In contrast, many countries take account of the different circumstances of those raising multiple birth children, both in terms on ongoing costs and one-off costs, and reflecting benefits as well as parental leave. In Ireland a special grant is made at the time of birth and later when the children reach 4 and 12 years old, and child benefit payments are increased by 50 per cent in the case of twins, and doubled where there are triplets or other higher order births. In Bulgaria the rate for larger families (3+ children) is paid for each twin, once the family reaches that larger size. The birth grant is higher for multiple births in the Czech Republic. Many countries alter the entitlement to parental leave when there are multiple births, including France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, the Czech Republic and Sweden.
6. Case studies are available on request.