Parental job loss and early child development in the Great Recession

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The study examines whether and why parental job loss may stifle early child development, relying on cohort data from the population of children born in Ireland in 2007–2008 (N = 6,303) and followed around the time of the Great Recession (2008–2013). A novel approach to mediation analysis is deployed, testing expectations from models of family investment and family stress. Parental job loss exacerbates problem behavior at ages 3 and 5 (.05–.08 SDs), via the channels of parental income and maternal negative parenting. By depressing parental income, job loss also hampers children’s verbal ability at age 3 (.03 SDs). This is tied to reduced affordability of formal childcare, highlighting a policy lever that might tame the intergenerational toll of job loss.

Original languageEnglish
JournalChild Development
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The present study was supported by a grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO MaGW VIDI grant no. 452‐17‐005 to Renske Keizer) and by a grant from the European Research Council (ERC StG grant no. 757210 to Renske Keizer). Data from Growing Up in Ireland were accessed via the Irish Social Science Data Archive— . The authors wish to thank Geoffrey Wodtke, Katrien Helmerhorst, and Lisa van der Storm for their feedback and technical support, as well as participants in the 2019 Nederlandse Demografiedagen. Any errors or omissions are the authors’ own. Replication materials are available at

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Child Development published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Research in Child Development.


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