Childhood has deteriorated in Britain, a survey shows

Childhood has been deteriorating in the UK, with a majority of adults believing children’s futures have been clouded by the Covid pandemic, declining mental health and financial hardship, a poll has found.

More than half of parents and almost two-thirds of grandparents believe life today is more difficult and stressful than when they were kids, citing money issues, house prices, the climate crisis and emotional anxieties related to school and social media as welfare. action for children.

Although children tend to have positive attitudes in general, a third believe their parents had a better childhood than theirs. Many cite growing concerns about mental health, school stress and family finances, and those from poorer backgrounds are far more likely to be pessimistic.

While 38% of children from low-income households (up to £20,000 a year) were more likely to say their childhood was worse, this figure dropped to 26% of children from households earning £70,000 or more. Likewise, 64% of the poorest parents thought their children’s lives were worse, compared to 48% of the wealthiest households.

For example, nearly half of children from low-income households are concerned about family finances, compared to 14% of children from wealthier families. Children from the poorest families are far less confident they will get the job they want and twice as likely to believe they will not go to college.

“We are all going through the experience of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, but the hardship is felt much more intensely when you are on a low income,” said Imran Hussain, policy and campaigns director at Action for Children. .

Although all children are concerned about the climate crisis, those from more affluent backgrounds were more concerned. More than half of children from wealthy families (56%) pointed this out, compared to 29% from low-income families.

Mental illness continues to be listed as a top concern for children, with 42 percent citing their own mental health as a problem, up from 29 percent when asked in the previous Action for Children early childhood survey in 2019.

According to the survey, adult recognition of children’s mental health as a problem has also accelerated. In 2019, 17% of parents and 9% of grandparents said mental health was a problem. By 2021, that number had risen to 45% of parents and 30% of grandparents.

Hussain said: “Despite the worst cost-of-living crisis on record, limited aid to struggling families over the past week has been hugely disappointing. Our research shows just how concerned children are about “adult issues,” with those from the poorest households worrying most about their family’s finances. »

He added: “It is the fundamental responsibility of any government to ensure that every generation of children has a better childhood and future than the last, but day in and day out our frontline workers support families who are faced with choices whether they should light the candle or not put fire or food on the table”.

The survey of 5,000 young people, parents and grandparents was conducted between December and January.

The Ministry of Education has been asked for comment.

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