5 Jun 2007

Childhood Friendships At Risk Reveals New Survey

05 June 2007

Children's freedom to play out with their friends is being curtailed by adult anxiety about the modern world, a survey published by The Children's Society, today (Tuesday 5 June) reveals.

The survey shows that anxiety about playing out unsupervised means that adults are denying today’s children the freedom to spend time with friends that they once enjoyed themselves. When asked the best age for children to be allowed out with friends unsupervised most respondents (43 per cent) said aged 14 or over, despite the fact that most of them had been allowed out without an adult at the much younger age of 10 or under. Respondents over the age of 60 went even further, with 22 per cent saying children should be over 16 before going out alone.

Interestingly, the survey also revealed that early friendships last a lifetime with 69 per cent of respondents saying they are still in touch with at least one childhood friend.

The survey, conducted by GfK NOP, is the first in a series called reflections on childhood being commissioned by The Children’s Society as part of its Good Childhood Inquiry.

Its findings come in the wake of a recent report from UNICEF which revealed that the UK ranks at the bottom for peer relationships in international tables1. There is also research to suggest friendship in the UK is changing, and that since 1986 the number of teenagers with no best friends has increased from around one in eight to almost one in five2. And yet children contributing to The Good Childhood Inquiry have said friends are the most important things in their lives.

‘Children have told us loud and clear that friendship matters and yet this is an area in which we appear to be failing them. As a society we are in a real quandary; on the one hand we want freedom for our children but on the other we are becoming increasingly frightened to let them out,’ said Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of The Children’s Society.

‘All the research shows that spending time with friends is fundamental to children’s wellbeing and development which means it is crucial that we resolve this contradiction. The Good Childhood Inquiry allows us the opportunity to do so by rethinking the kind of lives that we want to create for our children.’

The topic of friends is the first of six key themes to be considered by The Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Inquiry. A summary of the evidence about friendship submitted to the inquiry by the public, adults and professionals can be downloaded from www.goodchildhood.org.uk.

‘If we are to ensure that all children enjoy the good childhood they deserve we must consider how society can support and encourage friendships,’ said Professor Judith Dunn, chair of The Good Childhood Inquiry and a leading expert on childhood relationships.

Over the next twelve months the inquiry will hold meetings on the remaining themes of family, health, learning, lifestyle and values before reporting its final conclusions in late 2008.

Notes to Editors:

For more information or to arrange interviews please contact the media team. Media contact: Zoe Mason, The Children’s Society’s Media Team, Tel: 0207 841 4422 Email: zjm@childsoc.org.uk Mobile: 07810 796 508

-Good Childhood: what you told us about friends, a summary of the friends evidence submitted to The Good Childhood Inquiry can be downloaded from www.goodchildhood.org.uk
- GfK NOP conducted a total of 1,148 interviews with a representative sample of UK representatives aged 18 or over. A summary of the findings is available from The Children’s Society media office.
-The Good Childhood Inquiry – the UK’s first independent national inquiry into childhood – is managed by The Children’s Society. The inquiry’s final report and recommendations will be published in 2008. For more information please visit www.goodchildhood.org.uk
-The Children's Society is a national children's charity working with over 50,000 children and teenagers every year, in 60 projects around the country. It works in partnership with communities, schools and families. It helps: children at risk on the streets; children in trouble with the law; young refugees; and disabled children. It is a voluntary organisation of the Church of England. Visit www.childrenssociety.org.uk

1 An overview of Child Well-being in Rich Countries, UNICEF, 2007
2 Findings presented by Professor Judith Dunn to the inquiry panel