Sweet sixteen? Now children's true value to parents is revealed

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The Independent Online

Sweet they may be, but 16-year-olds cost their parents more than at any other stage in their childhood, according to research.

The average 16-year-old has a running cost of £64 a week in food, clothing, tuition and other expenses. Babies cost their parents an average of £40 a week before they reach their first birthday, the survey found.

Raising a child from birth to adulthood costs parents an average of £43,056, according to the study by the debit card company Maestro UK and Family Circle magazine - and that does not include an 18th birthday present. More than half of parents - 54 per cent - admitted that the expense of bringing up their children had proved far higher than they imagined.

Nigel Turner, the marketing director at Maestro UK, said: "It is clear that raising children is a costly business, but we feel that many parents may not be aware of just how costly it is. The total cost of raising a child is almost twice the national average household's take- home pay, meaning workers in the average family will spend two years working to cover the cost of each child."

The bills begin to add up, with childcare expenses for pre-school children costing up to £100 a week for one in 20 parents. Soaring nursery bills and a shortage of good childcare places mean 80 per cent of parents try to save money by taking extended maternity leave and employing relatives on babysitting duties.

The poll of more than 1,000 parents found that the biggest single expense of parenthood was food, with the average child having munched his or her way through more than £20,000 worth of meals by the time they reach 18. Clothing and entertaining a teenager costs an average of £7 a week, while extra school tuition and other activities such as football coaching and ballet lessons cost a further £364 a year.

An annual survey of pocket money by the market research company Mintel has found that 12- to 16-year-olds receive an average of £9.37 a week. But compared with feeding and entertaining a child, educating one is a relative bargain.

Parents spend an average £156 a year on uniforms, class trips, stationery and other school expenses. But one in 50 families spends more than £5,000 a year on their child's education, mainly on private school fees.

Parents in Britain spend the most in Europe on raising their children - 30 per cent more than parents in France and 25 per cent more than in Sweden, according to other research.

But even the prospect of your child reaching adulthood is no guarantee that your responsibilities are over. Only one in three parents expect their offspring to be financially independent at 18, with one in five anticipating that they will still be providing a roof over their children's heads until they are at least 21.

Seven out of 10 believe they will help their child to buy their first car; 80 per cent expect to contribute to university costs; and almost half are resigned to providing money for their children's first step on to the property ladder.

But despite the financial pain, only 4 per cent of parents said they had any regrets about having children.

How it all adds up

Food - £22 per week

Pocket money: £9 per week

Clothes: £7 per week

After school activities: £7 per week

Entertainment: £7

Education: £4

Transport £5

Other: £3