Yet another British report on how bad things are for children in that country blames most of the problems now facing young people on a culture of “excessive individualism” that has developed in recent decades. The Good Childhood Inquiry says the “me-first” attitude of adults is causing family breakdowns, competition in eduction, a growing gap between rich and poor, unkindness among teenagers and premature sexualization through advertising.

The two-year investigation by The Children’s Society is based on interviews with 35,000 children, parents and professionals and is being billed as a “landmark” in addressing the widely discussed unhappiness of British youngsters. Emotional and behavioural problems are on the rise, almost a quarter of young people live in households below the breadline, a third of 16-year-olds live apart from their fathers, and the country has the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in western Europe. (Can anyone see the key indicator here? No dad at home?) Moreover, children now spend 21 hours a week watching TV or playing video games, making them targets of advertisers, while junk food and alcohol also jeopardise their health.

The study, backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, blames these problems on an excessive struggle for personal status and success, which it says has filled the vacuum created by the decline of religious belief and community spirit. The authors — led by Labour peer and happiness expert Lord Layard –warned that things could get worse for children during the recession, and if the problems are not tackled now “we’ll be paying for this for generations to come”.

The report urges the government to provide better support for those with mental health problems; train teachers in social skills; ban advertising aimed at under-12s; scrap school league tables (comparing academic results) and SATs tests; and give greater commitment to tackling child poverty.

The study also tells parents they should make a long-term commitment to each other and to hold a civil birth ceremony even if they are not religious.~ Telegraph (UK), Feb 2

 

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet