Which families are feeling the pinch of the pandemic the most?

Melbourne Institute Research Insight No. 14/21

Date: October 2021


Dr Ana Gamara
Professor Sharon Goldfeld
Professor Shelley Mallett
Professor A. Abigail Payne
Dr Anna Price


The first years of life are a critical developmental period that lay the foundations for health and opportunity across the lifespan. The experience of sustained adversity during the early years of life has wide-ranging and long-lasting negative consequences (Heckman 2006). Adversity takes many forms: one is the financial stress that arises when families are unable to pay for essential services such as housing, bills and healthcare. Parents experiencing financial stress have difficulties in purchasing goods and services that children need to thrive and are more likely to have poor mental health, which in turn affects their parenting capabilities. The continuing lockdowns, job losses and closures of businesses and schools caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have disrupted families’ financial and mental health. To recover from the pandemic and ‘build back better’, we should address potential harms caused by these disruptions. Understanding the financial stress experiences of families with young children is key. In this Research Insight we use Melbourne Institute’s Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) Survey data from June 2020 to September 2021 to explore the levels of financial stress experienced by families with children. Does stress depend on the age of children? Does stress fluctuate over time? How does stress relate to community characteristics?

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