What’s the Matter with our Children

I’ve just written this news item for Ekklesia.

It highlights the fact a number of problems related to the well-being of our children in the UK.

For more information read the author’s version of the report here.

What is particularly interesting to me is are the results showing that young people in their upper teens have the second lowest measure of combined career aspirations (amongst those studying) and employment (amongst those not studying). Also, whilst UK children live in homes with by far the largest number of rooms per person, this material wealth isn’t translated into general well-being or a responsible attitude to the future. The study shows that the country ranks at the bottom for family structures that are beneficial for the development of children. The UK’s children do not tend to eat, or even talk very much with their parents. Not only that, but their friends are relatively unkind and unsupportive. Children from the UK also have the riskiest patterns of behaviour including sexual behaviour and drug use.

The report states

“there is substantial evidence that children in single parent as well as in step families tend to have worse outcomes than peers living with both biological parents (Kamerman ‘et al’ 2003; Rodgers and Pryor 1998).”


“The family constitutes the most important mediating factor for children’s well-being. An analysis of BHPS youth data found a significant association between the quality of parent-child relationships and young people’s subjective well-being (Quilgars ‘et al’ 2005). Orthner and Jones-Saupei (2003) point to the importance of good family communication for getting children into activities and educational opportunities ‘that will help them succeed’. Qualitative research shows that poor adolescents who have a trusting and supportive relationship to at least one parent are better able to deal with problems (Hoelscher 2003).”


“According to an Irish project on child well-being children see friends next to the family as the most important factors for their well-being (Hanafin and Brooks 2005). In fact friendship, the possibility to spend time with friends, to have fun and share problems is of high significance in children’s lives. A ‘best friend’ is often the only person with whom children talk about difficulties they have with their family or friends while being part of a wider group of peers strengthens feelings of belonging. Children are at risk of exclusion from their peer group if they stand out in one way or the other.”

and regarding risky behaviour including sex, drugs and alcohol:

“Adolescence is a time in development in which risk behaviour is very common and young people often engage in it hoping for some positive gains like acceptance in their peer group. In this they tend to underestimate the risks they take.”

This makes pretty bleak reading for UK youthworkers, but it does give us a measure of where we are, what we need to achieve and some issues to tackle

4 thoughts on “What’s the Matter with our Children

  1. very interesting Mark, do you think that any of what you have posted has an effect or impact, or even be a reason for so many young eople using internet, or text messaging. so many young peole who I knwo are now using msn as a way to communicate rather than face to face communication. there seems to be a fear or something, stopping people from that relationship. And I guess the same is true for family life as well.
    recently had a debate with my wife about what to get our 11 year old daughter for her Birthday, and ad the same discussion with grandparents. The general response was get her something tha tshe wants, ie n.ds, or dvd player, I asked would this keep her in her room more, and stop her from interacting with us, the grandparents sadi that that didn’t matter as long as hse got what she wanted., my wife understood where I was coming from.
    Just a thought, which I haven’t thought through totoally, is are drugs, alcohol, and sti’s are the increase because people do not know how to relate to each other any more in person? With som much interaction done, without face to face contact, that interaction, in a persons environment, might scare some, and make them do things they don’t understand, because they don’t know how to relate any more.

  2. Good points.

    If you love your kids you get something that is good for them that they will like/enjoy – not merely something that they want. It’s a hard thing to do. I’m sure that we are doing it as well as we could.

    I’m tempted to think that people are more likely to have sex with ‘the wrong people’ if they need to boost their self esteem. Low self esteem will often come from not enough interaction I’m sure.

    Time for friendships is the key.

  3. The issue about th erelationship with peers is interesting, and i wonder about the role of youth workers in helping young people support one another, knowing when they are out of their depth and need help or advice from others. Peer mentoring is quite big but I would still expect a yp more likely to talk to their mate than mentor, so how do we empower all yp to have a good supportive skills base.

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