Saturday, 7 February 2009

The Good Childhood Inquiry Results Are Out

I have in the past blogged about children in the UK here.

In September 2006, the Children's Society commissioned the UK 's first independent national inquiry into childhood. The results of the Good Childhood Inquiry are now out.

On the whole, British children are not unhappy. 93% of the children say that their parents care about them. 27% said they often feel depressed. Bullying was identified as a major source of anxiety. Parental conflict and separation was another.

This report says that most of the obstacles children face today are linked to growing individualism in society, in particular the belief that individuals must make the most of their own lives, rather than work for the common good. This report blames excessive individualism for problems such as family break-ups, teenage unkindness, commercial pressures towards premature sexualisation, unprincipled advertising, too much competition in education and acceptance of income inequality. The report says that although freedom and self-determination bring many blessings, the balance has tilted too far towards individualism in Britain . I think this is true all over the developed world and the westernised parts of the developing world.

In a sense, I agree with this report. In the UK , all over the developed world, and the Westernised parts of the developing world, individualism is becoming more and more important. It is taken for granted that every individual has the freedom to focus on himself or herself, at the expense of everything else. One of the first victims of such individualism are children. As parents spend less time with their children, children grow up to be selfish and more individualistic.

I wouldn’t say individualism is totally bad. Until a few decades ago, women were confined to their homes. Elders in the family collectively decided who would go to school or college, who would marry whom etc. As technology improved, it began to be possible for women to do many of the jobs which men did. As values changed, families became nuclear. As consumerism grew, families realized that two incomes are necessary to buy all the consumer goods they wanted, go on the holidays etc. I am not sure where the line ought to be drawn, if it should be drawn at all. Is there anything wrong with a society where everyone is very selfish, but where all laws are obeyed and where there is enough for everyone? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

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