Skip to content

Close families able to cope better with economic uncertainty, says new research

A new study has revealed that people who feel a psychological sense of closeness and belonging with their family are better able to cope in times of economic and financial uncertainty.

Family on a computer screen
Maintaining close relationships with family while on lockdown can help people to cope with financial worries

The research by Nottingham Trent University (NTU) consisted of two surveys, which in total questioned 540 people from a range of backgrounds on their sense of family identification, the support they receive from their family, their wellbeing and how they are managing financially.

Participants in the second part of the study also answered questions about financial distress and how they cope as a family with unexpected financial challenges.

The first survey revealed that people who identify closely with their family have a stronger sense of receiving support. This predicts better wellbeing, and feelings that they can manage financially. The second survey demonstrated the same findings, with the addition of a stronger feeling that their family can collectively cope with financial challenges, which in turn predicts less financial distress.

Lead researcher, Professor Clifford Stevenson, said: “We are all currently facing a time of uncertainty, and for many this means financial worries and hardship.

“Traditional financial research overlooks how the family affects experiences of economic challenge. Our study considers the relationship that social identity and a sense of belonging with a group – in this case their family – has with a person’s resilience and ability to cope with challenges.

“We argue that family identification, for example feeling psychologically connected to one’s family, fosters support, promoting financial coping. At this time, it means that keeping in touch with your family and maintaining those relationships in whatever way possible is very important to mental health and wellbeing.

“We hope that this evidence will lead to future research into how families can be supported to more effectively cope with and overcome economic challenge together.”

The study will feed into the work of Nottingham Civic Exchange, a collaborative think tank at NTU, which is working with partners to better understand the everyday experiences of “Ordinary Working Families” who face economic insecurity.

Director of Nottingham Civic Exchange, Dr Paula Black, said: “Our focus has been to understand economic insecurity - what we define as harmful volatility in people’s economic circumstances. Economic insecurity is just as important as poverty, inequality and poor social mobility in understanding the challenges faced by families in Britain today. But it does not receive the same level of policy attention.

“We are exploring the pressures that can be placed on households, through factors like a reliance on precarious and low paid work, caring responsibilities and costs, and the lack of routes to progression and training, and looking at how we can help to build resilience – within families, and throughout whole communities.

“This research shows us how families and communities experience economic insecurity and the strategies they use to build resilience to economic shocks.”

The study was carried out by Professor Clifford Stevenson, Dr Sebastiano Costa, Dr Juliet Wakefield, Dr Blerina Kellezi and Dr Rebecca Stack from the Department of Psychology at NTU’s School of Social Sciences. Read the paper online at Science Direct.

  • Notes for editors

    Press enquiries please contact Helen Breese, Public Relations Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8751, or via email.

    About Nottingham Civic Exchange

    Nottingham Civic Exchange is the only university place-based think tank created to carry out original research designed to influence government policy affecting its region’s population.

    Its research will be carried out with and by the communities in Nottinghamshire, helping to empower citizens.

    About Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) was named University of the Year 2019 in the Guardian University Awards. The award was based on performance and improvement in the Guardian University Guide, retention of students from low-participation areas and attainment of BME students.

    NTU was also the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2017, and The Times and Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2018. These awards recognise NTU for its high levels of student satisfaction, its quality of teaching, its engagement with employers, and its overall student experience.

    The university has been rated Gold in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework – the highest ranking available.

    It is one of the largest UK universities. With nearly 32,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University contributes £900m to the UK economy every year. With an international student population of more than 3,000 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook.

    The university is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable NTU to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was awarded University of the Year in the UK Social Mobility Awards 2019.

    A total of 82% of its graduates go on to graduate entry employment or graduate entry education or training within six months of leaving. Student satisfaction is high: NTU achieved an 87% satisfaction score in the 2019 National Student Survey.

Published on 22 April 2020
  • Category: Nottingham Civic Exchange; Press office; Research; School of Social Sciences