Date Published: 15 March 2010

Families of Twins Face Double the Financial Trouble

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

Families of multiple births face significant financial hardship according to a major new study by researchers from the University of Birmingham. 'The Effects of Twins and Multiple Births Families and Their Living Standards', which is supported by the Twin and Multiple Births Association, found that families with multiple births were more likely to report a drop in their income level following the birth of their children. They were also twice as likely as families of singletons to report ‘quite difficult’ financial stress.

The report also found that twins and triplets experienced higher levels of material deprivation, and their families were more likely to separate or divorce.

The report analysed the datasets of The Millennium Cohort Study and the annual Family Resources Survey (2004-2007), the Government’s key source of statistics on poverty and low income. It found:

  • 62% of multiple birth families said they were financially worse off after their babies were born, compared with 40% of other parents. Families with a multiple birth were nearly twice as likely to say they were finding the financial pressures ‘quite difficult’ (13% compared to 7% of families of singletons where the mothers were age-matched, and 8% of all families with singletons).
  • Between 2004 and 2007, the poorest quarter of all families were living on £192 per week or less, but the poorest quarter of families with twins or triplets had to get by with £181 per week or less.
  • Families with multiple births reported higher levels of material deprivation, and lower well-being for their children. Nearly half (48%) of those raising twins or triplets had used up some or all of their savings, compared with 37% of all families. Nonetheless, they were more likely to be unable to afford key items for their children, and to have more arrears on their bills. Whilst 60% of families could afford all of a dozen key child-related items, this was true of only 55% of those with twins.
  • Nine months after giving birth, mothers of multiple births were nearly 20% less likely to have returned to work than mothers of singletons. There was a greater expectation that paid work would have to wait until their children were aged five, i.e., at full-time primary school. Many mothers tell Tamba that the cost of childcare for twins or triplets means that their families would lose even more money if they returned to work sooner.

The report also revealed that parents of a multiple birth are more likely to separate or divorce – 28% of the ever-married had divorced or separated among multiple birth families, compared with 24% for other families with children. Financial distress tends to be among the most commonly cited reasons for family breakdown.

In February 2010, a separate survey found that parents are likely to have to spend more than £201,000 on raising a (singleton) child from birth to the age of 21, with an average spend of £54,696 on childcare for one child. Unlike many countries throughout Europe, including the Republic of Ireland, there are no additional state support or benefits for families having a multiple birth.

Suzanne Pammen, mother of twins, commented:

We love our twin boys dearly, but have spent much of the last two years sick with worry, just trying to give them the basics. We have good jobs and are careful with money, and yet we’ve racked up nearly £40,000 of debts. Childcare is extortionate – we would be financially better off if I gave up work and claimed benefits. But what kind of example is that to set to my boys?"

Keith Reed, Chief Executive of the Twins and Multiple Births Association (Tamba), commented:

The main parties say they are committed to strong families, and helping mothers back to work, but many families with multiple births are in dire straits because successive Governments have ignored their needs.

Urgent measures are required to ensure that the UK’s twins, triplets and other multiple births no longer pay the price for a short-sighted one-size-fits-all approach. We call on the Government to join other countries, like the Republic of Ireland, in supporting families of multiple births with common sense measures, including amendments to child benefit provisions and support for those who wish to use preschool or other childcare providers so that they can return to work.

The study's author, Professor Stephen McKay of the University of Birmingham commented:

The report found that twins and triplets are more likely to be born to married and older couples, who are in paid employment. These factors should provide some degree of ‘protection’ against low incomes and deprivation, so it is deeply concerning that twins or triplets are experiencing greater levels of material deprivation than singletons, and that their families are at greater risk of separation and divorce.

This report highlights the measures that other countries use to support the families of multiple births.



Source: Birmingham University. .

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