"Selfish Parents" are Screwing Up Kids, Says British Study

A 3-year study focusing on 35,000 children, parents and professionals, claims British children are less happy than those in almost any other developed country.

The aggressive pursuit of individual success by adults today is the greatest threat to our children….There is unease about the unprecedented speed with which children’s lives are changing; the commercial pressures they face; the violence they are exposed to; the rising stresses of school; the increased emotional distress they feel.

The Good Childhood Inquiry was a study commissioned by the Children’s Society in the UK.  It blamed numerous factors on the difficulty in modern kids’ lives, including:

  • Family break-up. Children in “broken” homes are 50 percent more like to suffer problems at school or become depressed. A third of British teens live apart from their fathers. In the United States, only 37% of children under the age of eighteen were living with married adults in a marriage the reporting spouse rated as “very happy,” which social scientists agree is the best possible situation for kids.
  • Unbridled advertising.  Kids watch much more than the prescribed two hours per day (which is still a lot!) and are exposed to ads for unhealthy food and alcohol. Here, children are exposed to 40,000 ads annually on television alone. A study last year found nothing good about TV viewing for kids.
  • Competition in education.  The study criticizes the struggle for personal status and success, which it says has filled the vacuum created by the decline of religious belief and community spirit.
  • Income inequality. A quarter of British kids live at or below the poverty line. The rate in the U.S. is about 18 percent.

Yes, the study says that British children are having a rough time of it.  But it’s not limited to that side of the pond, I’m sure.  Many of the implications are those we see here in the States every day, such as the “me first” attitude of recent generations, which the study calls “excessive individualism.” As in, we get more pleasure from helping ourselves than helping others.

The report is not all gloom and doom; there are some things we can do.  Though these recommendations were made with British kids in mind, I’m sure they can work here, too:

  • Abolishing Sats tests and league tables in English schools.  Or, in the U.S., we could certainly modify the rules for standardized tests.  Here in Virginia they are appropriately called SOLs.
  • A ban on all advertising aimed at kids under 12 and no TV commercials for alcohol or unhealthy food before 9 pm. Because that’s unlikely to happen in the land of the free, it’s important that you do a little bit of restriction in your own house.
  • Stopping building on any open space where children play. Or if you unluckily don’t live near a playground (like me), you can still expose your child to the outdoors.
  • A high-quality youth center for every 5,000 young people. Would that count as “infrastructure” under the new stimulus package?

The report is in a book called A Good Childhood.

Image: Ctd 2005 on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.


  1. This is a very good article. However, I think good Christian morals play an important role in a child’s life, too. Children would be better off if they were all taught that God and marriage come first, and instead of creating a child-centered home, you should be creating a God-centered home. After God comes a strong and committed marriage, which then creates a happy and stable home environment for the kids. Next, never spoil the kids or expect them to behave like little miniature versions of yourselves. They are not adults, they are children, and they need their parents around for guidance as well as age-appropriate expectations and responsibilities. You can’t expect your newborn baby to care for its physical needs on its own, so why expect your 6-year-old to hit a home run at every Little League game? Or your 2-year-old toddler to succeed at potty training at once? Also, a little spanking and good, old-fashioned discipline, rather than spoiling, has never hurt anyone. Without these things, children grow up to act like selfish, uncivilized adults, which seems rampant in today’s world. Today’s kids have a sickening sense of entitlement, this No One Can Touch Me attitude, and it is only because their parents are too afraid that discipline will either harm their children or get the parents accused of child abuse or looked upon by others as if they are bad parents. Remember when Kate Gosselin was accused of child abuse for spanking Leigh because Leigh was acting up in public over the summer? It used to be you were a bad parent if you didn’t set limits on your child’s behavior and spank them when they needed it. Now, you are a bad parent just for trying to be a good disciplinarian. So, today’s parents have simply given up on discipline altogether and are instead trying to shield their children from all of life’s disappointments by bending over backwards trying to keep them happy. But are the kids happy? Nope, as the above article clearly states. Today’s kids are growing up actually despising their parents, and disciplining them now turns them into ruthless, violent, parent-hating murderers, because they simply don’t get the love, care, and parental guidance they need starting from birth. And I think it has a lot to do with the fact that some parents will forgo discipline and parental guidance until the children become teenagers, then suddenly put their foot down, set all of the limits, and expect their teens to happily comply. Sorry, but that isn’t how it works, folks. Of course, as the above article also states, it would also help if selfish parents were a little less selfish and started taking full responsibility for their children. You can also limit what your children watch on TV, what kind of music they listen to, who they choose as their friends, how much time they spend on video games, computers, high-tech toys, snacking, and on the phone, what they buy with their money, how much money they spend, and how much money you give them. Don’t give them any credit cards, for an example, then bail them out of debt when they overspend. Don’t let them keep a television set or a computer in their rooms, then expect them to magically know when they’ve reached their limit. Don’t give them a pet, then expect them to take full responsibility for it without your guidance. The list goes on, and it’s all about good, old-fashioned common sense and knowing when to step in and be the parent. Just a few more suggestions on how to have good kids. Not bad for someone who has never married or had any children, huh?


  1. […] has proven negative affects on children. A recent study was conducted in Great Britain. The 3-year study focusing on 35,000 children, parents and […]

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