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.
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!" at the obviousness of the conclusions), I cannot help feeling that the Children's Society might have been speaking to themselves - I see little evidence around me that the Government (in particular) have responded to the findings.
Nevertheless, this book refreshed my vision of how we should be striving to improve society and the future for our children.
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.
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.
this is an excellent report and gives a real and very systematic insight into the thoughts and feelings of children growing up in a very frightening generation. The only thing I would criticise is that it is mainly based on the thoughts of older children, younger children aren't given the voice in this that they deserve. The recommendations are sound, if a little idealistic. Most,though they clearly would benefit many thousands of children, sadly, will never be followed through partly becuase they are too expensive, and partly because they would require just too much of a shift of philosphy. I felt that their recommendations on parents receiving parenting advice, for example, would make a huge difference to the way children are brought up. As an early years professional, I frequently see children who are having a difficult childhood purely because their parents have no experience of how to bring up children and are doing it very poorly - they don't know how to say no, and indulge their children excessively, making them into spoilt and very unpleasant people, who have no regard for others. Parenting classes would help avoid these pitfalls and although the book advocates this, I can't see a time when this will happen. I feel that the book illustrates how, as a society, the issues which affect today's children must be tackled in order to avoid some very major problems in their future and in future generations of children. British children are generally unhappy, stressed and often demonised. I just hope that at least some of the recommendations will be followed through.
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. If you've had the feeling that as a nation we have lost our way in recent years in raising and managing children, this will help give a steer in the right direction. Whether you are a parent or intending to become a parent and particularly if you work with children and young people, you have to read this. How good is this? I bought 10 copies (out of my own pocket!) and gave them as Christmas presents...
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.
This book was very interesting to read and made many good points about child-care and the role of parents. It makes many common sense comments and challenges many of the practices evident in modern homes where both parents work, or where there is only one parent. Some have criticised the book as being too 'religious' in the solutions that it recommends. My own view is that it is quite balanced, but many of its recommendations are unlikely to be accepted because the social and financial set-up today makes such acceptance impossible--we are unlikely to go back a mother staying at home for a long period once children arrive. What it says should certainly generate discussion.