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A Good Childhood: Searching for Values in a Competitive Age [Paperback]

Richard Layard , Judy Dunn
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Feb 2009

Every day the newspapers lament the problems facing our children - broken homes, pressures to eat and drink, the stress of exams. The same issues are discussed in every pub and at every dinner party. But is life really more difficult for children than it was, and if so why? And how can we make it better?

This book, which is a result of a two year investigation by the Children's Society and draws upon the work of the UK's leading experts in many fields, explores the main stresses and influences to which every child is exposed - family, friends, youth culture, values, and schooling, and will make recommendations as to how we can improve the upbringing of our children. It tackles issues which affect every child, whatever their background, and questions and provides solutions to the belief that life has become so extraordinarily difficult for children in general.

The experts make 30 specific recommendations, written not from the point of view of academics, but for the general reader - above all for parents and teachers. We expect publication to be a major event and the centre of widespread media attention.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (5 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141039434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141039435
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 85,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Richard Layard is Emeritus Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, and author of the best-selling Happiness (Penguin, 2005). He was founder-director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics and now heads its programme on well-being. He is also a member of the House of Lords.

Judy Dunn is Professor of Developmental Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London. Her research interests are in children's social, emotional and communicative development, studied in their families and with their friends. She is Chair of the Good Childhood Inquiry.


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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
In 2007, a UNICEF study ranked 21 developed countries and found that the UK came last for child welfare, with the US second worst. The Good Childhood Inquiry set out to find out why, and this book represents their conclusions.

On one level, it's a good time to be a child. Children in the UK enjoy good health and can look forward to long lives. They have foreign holidays, and a wealth of consumer goods. Despite the good life promised to them however, this generation of children is more stressed, more violent, and less happy than the children of the seventies or eighties. Alcohol use and teenage pregnancy are among the worst in Europe.

The report deals with some important and unpopular topics here, such as family break-up, and absent fathers, divorce, or parents who have put their careers first, as well as role of the media, and the erosion of trust.

There are lessons here for the government, town planners, teachers, and for parents. Overall however, the finger points at our whole individualistic consumer culture. And that's not so easily fixed.

The report has to return to that difficult word `values' - children need to empathise and understand the need to share, and to put others first. They need friends, teachers who believe in them, and parents who love them and love each other. In the end, love is a key word. "One major theme of this report is the need a more caring ethic and for less aggression - for, to put it bluntly, a society more based on the law of love" say the authors.

A Good Childhood is a thoroughly researched and thought provoking read, and I have no hesitation in recommending it.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I was eagerly awaiting my copy of this book after all the publicity about the report, but haven't got more than a third of the way through yet as it is so badly written. There seems to be no flow, just a jumble of generalisations which are left frustatingly unsubstantiated. I wanted the facts backed up with figures and an explanation of how the research led to such conclusions. Very disappointing when they were in such a good position to produce accessible yet convincing advice.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the result of an enquiry in Britain lasting 18 months and set up by The Children's Society, into the factors that make for a good childhood. Its strengths are that at every stage it backs its findings by citing evidence from studies in sociology, psychology, and education, which in many cases it critically evaluates, but at the same time illuminates with stories of individual children, and quotes from them. It concludes the importance of love, parental commitment (from both parents in harmonious relationship if at all possible), setting boundaries for the children, moral standards. as well as elements such as friends, exercise, and early education. It laments Britain's poor performance on childhood poverty and discusses its consequences. An outstanding piece of work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This is an excellent book!

In under 200 pages the Children's Society consider, assess and critique a range of topics that frame children's lives. Running throughout the book is the argument that 'excessive individualism' is the root of much that is wrong in society. The blurb reads, " 'A Good Childhood' provides the facts on the state of childhood in the UK today and provides suggestions for how it could be made better for all chidren, giving them the values they need to be happy and to flourish" - and it does!

It reviews the following themes: family, friends, lifestyle, values, schooling, mental health, and inequalities. The content of each chapter is clear headed and insightful drawing on excellent source research material, as well as surveys from children themselves. It does not feel like a Government white paper, especially when it describes the Government's policy for building over of open spaces in towns and playing fields as "madness".

I could wax lyrical about the conclusions the book makes, but as there's so much that is prescient and acutely accurate (in my opinion) I can't even begin to summarise the range of observations.

That said, here's one small extract:
"The answer [to the disappearance of automatic deference] is not permissive parenting where anything goes. Chidren need unconditional love of them as persons, but they also need clear boundaries, based on reasoned explanation...Parents must of course live the principles they purport to believe in."

The book's three watchwords are: love, respect and evidence.

This all said, while the book is enjoyable and accurate (and I often found myself muttering "No s**t Sherlock!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By C. Kidd
Format:Paperback
Last June I attended The Good Childhood Conference on behalf of our Local Children's Strategic Partnership Board. The Good Childhood Inquiry aimed to produce an evidence-based report (A Good Childhood: Searching for Values in a Competitive Age by Richard Layard and Judy Dunn) that can help to improve the lives of children and young people in the UK today.

Its three big considerations were:

* What are conditions for a good childhood?
* What obstacles exist to those conditions today?
* What changes could be made which on the basis of the evidence would be likely to improve things?

Evidence, in a variety of sources came from over 18,000 children and young people, including over 50 focus groups to hear from children and young people who rarely participate in surveys. According to the children and young people, what makes a good childhood?

* Friends
* Relationships in general
* Love and support
* Having fun and enjoying life
* Bullying

THe report includes recommendations for parents, teachers, government, media, advertisers and wider society. If you haven't read the report, it's got a lot of detail, and is well worth getting hold of.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars child psychology
I give this book the rating of 5 stars as it is being used as reference for a degree and is very good.
Published 1 month ago by Mr. Simpson
5.0 out of 5 stars one day people will realise...
1. that what this book says is true about how we could do so much more to prevent damage being inflicted on children - which results in later mental illness.

2. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Hector
5.0 out of 5 stars good childhood
good book and easy to read
and really made me understand all aspects of diversity and disadvantage in children.A Good Childhood: Searching for Values in a Competitive Age
Published 21 months ago by Mrs. Nina L. HUSSEY
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good childhood
This book is very interesting and factual. It made me cringe at times at the damage we can do to our children with sharp comments and convenience behaviours.
Published on 28 Aug 2011 by sha2401
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Childhood : Searching for Values in a Competitive Age
Helpful & timely book for the modern parent - and, in our case, grandparents. Have only just started reading the book, so at this stage cannot write a more detailed piece.
Published on 4 Jun 2011 by Brian Beard
5.0 out of 5 stars A very readable report
The result of an 18 month enquiry by the Children's society this book is well researched and very well presented. Read more
Published on 10 Jan 2010 by M. J. Parsons
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent...a must read for anyone involved in working with children.
I have been working with children and young people for over thirty years and this is one of the most accessible explanations of the current crisis in the UK. Read more
Published on 6 Jan 2010 by Naran Rathod
5.0 out of 5 stars Good things come in small packages!
This is an excellent book covering a range of very important issues relating to growing up in today's society. Read more
Published on 10 Oct 2009 by E. J. Prince
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent
a clear understanding of children, what they need and what they want, in order to feel happy, valued and fulfilled in life. fantastic for parents ant teachers alike.
Published on 9 May 2009 by Ms. A. J. Stephenson
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable study of our failings
This inspiring book is a product of Britain's biggest inquiry into the condition of childhood.

We have more broken families, more inequality, more relative poverty, and... Read more
Published on 30 April 2009 by William Podmore
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