16 Sep 2009

Four out of five adults believe that children do not have good role models in their lives nowadays, according to a survey released today by The Children’s Society’s National Mentoring Initiative. The survey, conducted by Opinium Research, found that only 20% of respondents, aged over 18, believe that children have appropriate adults to look up to and learn from.

The research shows that whilst many children used to look up to their fathers, most adults today believe that this is no longer the case. Twenty eight per cent of adults said their father was their most important influence when they were growing up, whilst only 14% think that children feel the same way now. By comparison the status of mothers as role models seems to have held up better than fathers. Some 32% of adults said that when they were children they most looked up to their mother, and that proportion has remained fairly stable, at 30% now.

The National Mentoring Initiative poll also found that grandparents are less highly regarded now as role models than in the past. Some 9% of adults said they looked up to grandparents most when growing up. Only 5% of adults believe children do that now. Predictably, perhaps, the over 55s were the most convinced that grandparents still have the admiration of the younger generation.

So who do adults think are the most appropriate role models for today’s children? David Beckham came out best in our poll. He was rated as a good or very good role model by 54% of adults. Only 18% saw Beckham as setting a bad or very bad example. People of all age groups rated him highly.

Pop star Cheryl Cole came second, with 40% rating her positively. Among the 18-34 age group, 34% saw controversial TV chef Gordon Ramsey as a good / very good role model, whilst only 7% of the over-55s viewed him positively. Surprisingly, over one in ten adults (12%) saw Homer Simpson as a positive role model.

What about the politicians?
· David Cameron is seen as setting the best example. 34 percent saw him as a good or very good role model. He was especially popular with the over-55s, with 44% viewing him positively.
· 20% of adults saw Gordon Brown as a good or very good role model, with 16% saying the same about Nick Clegg.

The research also found that only 23% of people do voluntary work or actions for the good of society once a month or more. Forty four per cent never volunteer, whilst just 14% volunteer every week or more often.

The poll was commissioned by the Children’s Society’s National Mentoring Initiative – a mentoring scheme aimed at providing a mentor for every young person in the UK who needs one. The Initiative is this month opening in Nottingham, where mentors are sought.

Rashid Iqbal, Director of The Children’s Society’s National Mentoring Initiative, said: “This poll reflects our concerns that many children are living without positive role models. If children are not looking up to adults this is not the children’s fault. Both parents and society at large have a responsibility to enact a change of heart in our society and actually live by the values that they espouse and be strong and positive role models, providing continuity and support to a child or young person’s life. At the moment this seems more aspiration than reality. Adults have a collective responsibility to make childhood better for all children.’’

Ends

For more information, including the full statistics or interview opportunities, please contact Rafi Cooper at The Children’s Society media office on 0207 841 4422 or rafi.cooper@childsoc.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

Opinium Research carried out an online poll of 2,006 British adults from Friday 20th March to Tuesday 24th March 2009. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.

The Children’s Society is a leading children’s charity committed to making childhood better for all children in the UK; The Children’s Society is a national charity driven by the belief that every child deserves a good childhood. To that end we provide vital help and understanding for those children who face the greatest danger, discrimination or disadvantage; children who are unable to find the support they need anywhere else. For more information visit www.childrenssociety.org.uk.

The Children’s Society has been able to establish the mentoring initiative in Greenwich, Tower Hamlets and Hackney thanks to generous funding from The Pears Foundation, Greenwich Council, The Allan and Nesta Ferguson Charitable Trust, The Jack Petchey Foundation and V, the volunteering charity.

The mentoring scheme was developed by the charity following a year-long feasibility study, an analysis of current mentoring schemes in the UK and consultation with the hugely popular ‘Big Brothers, Big Sisters’ programme in the USA. Research by ‘Big Brothers, Big Sisters’ has shown that children and young people involved in mentoring are less likely to take drugs, drink alcohol and play truant, and more likely to improve relationships with family, school performance and behaviour. Mentors are adults who regularly give up some of their free time to a give child or young person someone to trust, talk to, and have fun with.

The Children’s Society is now actively seeking more volunteers living in Greenwich, Tower Hamlets, Hackney or Nottingham who are interested in becoming a mentor for a child or a young person. This would involve regularly meeting up to enjoy activities together, and to provide support and guidance to the young person. Any adult aged 18 and over can apply to be a mentor and The Children’s Society offers full support and training. More information is available by contacting the National Mentoring Initiative on 020 7358 2000.