Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Government helping young mums give children a better start

New research funded by the Australian Government shows that children of younger mothers are more likely to experience poor outcomes compared with those of older mothers.

Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children has tracked the progress of more than 10,000 Australian children since 2004.

The new analysis, released today, looks at the environment in which children of young mothers are growing up, to help find ways of improving their chances at a better future.

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, said the study’s latest findings underscore the importance of the Australian Government’s new initiative to help young mums finish school and look after their children.

“We want to help teenage parents build a better future for themselves and their children,” Ms Macklin said.

“There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that children of young mothers with higher levels of education have better outcomes.

“Today’s research highlights the value of providing parenting programs and assistance aimed at the unique needs of teen parents.

“Our new approach for teenage parents, starting in January 2012, will help young parents finish school and make sure their children are getting the best start in life.”

In ten disadvantaged communities across Australia, teenage parents and jobless families on government payments will have new responsibilities and obligations to make sure they finish their education, prepare for work when their children are older and undertake activities designed to support them in their parenting role.

Young parents will be provided with support in finding and paying for child care, as well as getting practical budgeting advice, parenting skills and training, life skills such as cooking courses and driving classes and access to play groups.

“This new research demonstrates that, while statistically children with older mothers are better off, many children of young mothers are progressing well,” Ms Macklin said.

“Children who grow up in home environments that encourage and support learning are demonstrating better outcomes.

“The evidence also shows that children growing up in families where neither parent has a job are worse off.

“It’s clear that doing things as a family, such as getting ready for school, eating dinner, visiting the library and spending time reading together, can make a real difference in a child’s development.”

Ms Macklin said the Government wants to make sure that young parents have all the help they need to provide the best possible start in life for their children.

“The Government’s new measures help connect parent’s to the local services available to help them to care for children and achieve their full potential,” Ms Macklin said.

“Ensuring children have the opportunity to grow up happy and healthy and with the best start in life is central to breaking the cycle of disadvantage.”

The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children is the subject of a two-day conference in Melbourne on 15 and 16 November covering new research into multiple facets of Australian childhood.