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Varying family income through childhood linked with subsequent self-harm and violence risks

Downward parental socioeconomic mobility could increase risks for self-directed and interpersonal violence, but upward mobility could ameliorate risks.

Varying family income through childhood linked with subsequent self-harm and violence risks

Full title

Family income inequalities and trajectories through childhood and self-harm and violence in young adults: a population-based, nested case-control study.

 

Journal

The Lancet Public Health

 

Authors

Pearl L H Mok, Sussie Antonsen, Carsten B Pedersen, Matthew J Carr, Nav Kapur, James Nazroo, Roger T Webb.

 

Downward parental socioeconomic mobility could increase subsequent risks for self-directed and interpersonal violence, but upward mobility could ameliorate risks.

Socioeconomic disadvantage during childhood has been linked with poorer psychosocial outcomes in adulthood, but how risks are modified by parental socioeconomic mobility remains unclear.

Utilising Danish national registers, we investigated parental income trajectories during childhood and subsequent self-harm and violent criminality risks from the 15th birthday.

 

Parental income trajectories during childhood and subsequent self-harm and violent criminality risks from 15th birthday.

 

As the figure illustrates, we found a striking dose-response relationship: the longer children live in poorer circumstances, the higher their subsequent risks for the two adverse outcomes, and vice versa for time spent in relatively affluent conditions.

Those who remained in the poorest families through childhood had a sevenfold higher risk of self-harm and a 13-fold increased likelihood for violent criminality versus those who continuously lived in the most affluent conditions.

In addition, compared with individuals who were born and remained in the most affluent families, all other income trajectories were associated with elevated risks for both outcomes.

However, risks could be mitigated if family financial circumstances improved during childhood. Conversely, a fall in income could have a negative impact.

Our findings underline the importance of tackling socioeconomic inequalities during childhood and to enable upward mobility.

Effective interventions must be implemented population-wide to maximise public health impact, with additional narrowly-focused initiatives targeting the most disadvantaged families.

Key facts

  • Income inequality during childhood is strongly associated with subsequent risks for self-harm and violence.
  • The longer children live in poorer circumstances, the higher their risks.
  • Upward socioeconomic mobility was associated with lower risk compared with being downwardly mobile.
  • Tackling the causes of inequality and associated psychosocial challenges to enable upward socioeconomic mobility could potentially ameliorate these risks.

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Footnotes

This study was supported by a European Research Council grant awarded to Professor Roger Webb.