Personal Relationships and Poverty: JRF Anti-poverty review

Personal Relationships and Poverty: JRF Anti-poverty review

Tavistock Institute research published in JRF Anti-poverty review.


27 August 2014


Joseph Rowntree Foundation

New Tavistock Institute research published in JRF Anti-poverty review.

New Tavistock Institute research has been published today (27/08/14) by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as part of their programme to develop a set of evidence-based, anti-poverty strategies for the UK – in order to answer – how can we reduce poverty in the UK? What are the underlying causes? And what impact do different interventions have?

The Tavistock Institute was commissioned to conduct a review of policy and evidence on the links between personal (predominately family relationships) and poverty, with recommendations on how interventions in this area can reduce poverty. The study covered a wide range of inter-related areas including poverty and parenthood, couple relationships and their breakdown, lone parenthood, extended families and wider social contacts (grandparents, kinship care, siblings, peers and community relationships).

The review found that policies and family relationships which help reconcile the tension between participation in the labour market and caring responsibilities can reduce the chances of individual and family poverty.

  • The chances of family poverty are lessened when policies enable fathers’ involvement in childcare and mothers’ involvement in the labour market.
  • The stress of living in poverty brings added risk of relationship problems and breakdown. Policies underpinning relationship support services are a more effective way to tackle family poverty than marriage subsidies. Relationship support services need to reach families in poverty or on low incomes, especially those with multiple problems.
  • Separation can lead to poverty for both parents but the risk of persistent poverty is greater for resident parents. Regular child support payments reduce that risk. Step-families can provide a route out of poverty but are vulnerable to breakdown, leading to further spell(s) of poverty. Anti-poverty policies for separated families need to be holistic, address the needs of all family members and promote more involvement of non-resident parents.
  • Paid employment can increase single mothers’ income but risks being counterproductive without affordable childcare or childcare from other family members.
  • Grandparents play a vital role in providing free and flexible childcare, frequently enabling low-income mothers to (re-)enter employment. However, caring responsibilities can increase poverty risks for grandmothers who disrupt their own employment. Also, many care for both grandchildren and older parents, at financial cost to themselves. Raising the state retirement pension age risks reducing the supply of grandparents able to provide childcare and in turn increases the poverty risks of low-income mothers without access to affordable alternatives.
  • Intergenerational support most frequently goes downwards from parents to adult children and grandchildren and occurs more often in families which rely on welfare support for essential services.

Read a summary of the key findings from this study:
Personal relationships and poverty

Read the full report:
Personal Relationships and Poverty An Evidence and Policy Review

For further information on the research please contact Laura Stock, JRF Review Project Manager at l.stock@tavinstitute.org.

The research team for this study consisted of Laura StockJudy CorlyonCristina Castellanos Serrano and Matt Gieve at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations.

Subscribe to our newsletter

The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations | 63 Gee Street, London, EC1V 3RS
hello@tavinstitute.org | +44 20 7417 0407
Charity No.209706 | Design & build by Modern Activity
Research integrity statement | Terms & Privacy | Company information | Accessibility