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5 March 2012, 05:51
A fifth of boys as young as 10 are staying out late without telling their parents where they are, according to new research by the University of Essex.
Girls are less likely to do so, with just one in six staying out without their parents' knowledge, a study says.
It suggests that the odds of a child staying out without permission is not simply down to "bad parenting", with coming from a rich or poor background making little difference.
The research is based on a survey of more than 2,000 10-15-year-olds conducted as part of the Understanding Society study of 40,000 UK households.
The youngsters were asked how often they stayed out past 9pm without their parents knowing their whereabouts.
The findings show that 21% of boys and 15% of girls aged 10-15 years old reported staying out late without telling their parents at least once in a month.
Among 15-year-olds, more than a third (36%) of boys and almost a quarter of girls (24%) admitted to doing so.
A small minority of 15-year-olds (7% of boys and 5% of girls) regularly stay out late without their parents knowledge, the report adds.
The report notes that the issue of staying out late has become particularly relevant "against the backdrop of the riots in 2011, with 'poor parenting' being blamed in some quarters for the disturbances''.
It also notes that there were "pronouncements by Parliament and some regional police forces that parents should 'know where their children are' at night''.
It found that family income, being in a step family, and the numbers of family members living at home does not increase the risk of a youngster staying out past 9pm.
But living in social housing or with a single mother, does increase their chances.
The report also says that family relationships make a difference - youngsters who hardly ever talk to their mother about important matters, and often argue with them are more likely to stay out without telling their parents.
Regularly staying out late is linked to visiting pubs and bars more often, the researchers found, and those who stay out are more likely to drink alcohol, smoke and use cannabis more often than those that do not stay out.
Dr Maria Iacovou, of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University, who analysed the data, said: "This study shows that that the factors associated with staying out late without your parents knowing where you are, are complex and cannot simply be attributed to 'bad parenting'.
"Geographical location plays a part too and may relate to local entertainment opportunities. Other factors such as the mode of travel to school probably relate to independence on the part of young people and trust on the part of their parents; while others, most notably family relationships, demonstrate that social and emotional deprivation also plays a role.''
Dr Iacovou said that staying out late was also linked to emotional issues, with boys more at risk of having behaviour problems and girls more likely to have poor self-esteem.
The Understanding Society study is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.