The household income of two-thirds of families fell during the recession, with almost one in ten families falling into arrears on their mortgage or rent payments. 

A new report from the Economic and Social Research Institute also found that 14% of families fell into arrears on their utility bills during the same period.

The Growing Up in Ireland study reveals that, in 2011, more than six in ten families found it difficult to make ends meet - that was up from 44% in 2008.

The worst affected were one-parent families, families where the mother had low levels of education, and families where parents had been made redundant.

The report also found that twice as many mothers who were in rent arrears were classified as depressed, compared to those who were not in arrears. And it suggested that depression was linked to marital dissatisfaction. 

The authors of the report said that negative effects on the mental health of parents could spill over to affect how they interacted with their children, with parents showing 'less warmth and more hostility'. 

They said the effects of financial strain could either dissipate when a family returned to a more stable income, or they could be more long-lasting.

A second report found that obesity among young children continued to be of concern, with a fifth of five-year-olds described as 'unhealthily heavy' for their height. 15% were classified as overweight, and 5% as obese.

It said the threat obesity posed to the future health of children was a major policy concern. Girls in lower-income families were found to be most at risk of being overweight. 

The authors of the report said it was interesting that the children of overweight parents also tended to be overweight themselves. 

The study found that 14% of 5-year-olds had a non-resident parent. Over a quarter never had face-to-face contact with them, while more than a third saw them several times a week.

55% of mothers were found to be working outside the home. Nearly half of these women said they had missed out on family activities because of work responsibilities.

More than a quarter said they had turned down professional opportunities because of family responsibilities.

The reports were based on interviews with with more than 9,000 families of children who were nine months old in 2008. Parents were interviewed when their children were aged three, in 2011, and five, in 2013.