30 Jun 2008

Good Childhood Inquiry Highlights Concern about Values Children Learn From Adults

30 June 2008

Adults are increasingly concerned about the values children are learning from those around them, according to evidence submitted to The Good Childhood Inquiry. Two thirds (66%) of adults thought that the moral values of children today are not as strong as when they were children, according to a public opinion poll for The Children’s Society.

The poll, conducted by GfK NOP, is the last in a series called Reflections on Childhood commissioned by The Children’s Society, to complement the launch of a summary of evidence submitted to the inquiry on its sixth and final theme - values.

Professionals responding to the inquiry emphasised that children learn most of their values from adults, and expressed apprehension about how certain trends in society are affecting the values children are learning. The rise in materialism, a preoccupation with celebrity, and declining networks of support from community and extended family were all cited as negative factors. Seven out of ten polled (69%) said that community values among children today were not as strong as when they were young.

Increasing tension between adults and children emerged as a particular area of concern. Over half of adults responding to the poll (55%) thought there was more conflict between adults and children now compared to when they were young. Just a third (32%) thought that attitudes towards young people in their local neighbourhood were mostly positive.

Children responding to The Good Childhood Inquiry reported a lack of positive interaction with adults in their communities. In a national survey of young people aged 14 to 16 (1), only one in five (20%) agreed with the statement ‘My area cares about its young people’. Forty per cent were not sure and the remaining 40% disagreed. In response to questions on The Good Childhood Inquiry and BBC Newsround websites, 11% said adults in their community were ‘never’ friendly to them, and 37% said only ‘sometimes’.

Considering the issue of how children learn values from adults, Bishop Tim Stevens, Chair of The Children’s Society and a panel member, said: “What came through strongly from both adults and children is the golden rule: ‘treat others as you want to be treated’. Values are caught as well as taught.

“Many respondents to the inquiry expressed concern about how children can learn positive values from adults around them when communities are increasingly segregated and young people are often regarded with suspicion. It is crucial that our children are valued and respected by adults around them, so they can learn how to behave towards others.”

Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of The Children’s Society said: “We reap what we sow when it comes to teaching children values. Every adult plays a vital role, which we should nurture as much as we can.

"Unfortunately, it is easier to criticise children than to invest in them, and it is the children most in need of positive role models who are becoming disconnected from their communities and wider society. Where troubled young people challenge us, our responsibility is to bring them closer and help them, not push them away.”

Other findings from the GfK NOP poll include:

  • Twenty nine per cent of adults think that the Government’s attitudes to young people are mostly negative, with only 23% thinking they are mostly positive.
  • Forty per cent of adults think that the political values of children today are not as strong as when they were children.

The Children’s Society has already released evidence summaries on the inquiry’s previous five themes: friends, family, learning, lifestyle and health. The inquiry will publish its final report and recommendations in early 2009.

Notes to editors

Media Enquiries:
For more information or to arrange interviews please contact:
The Children’s Society’s Media Team, Tel: 020 7841 4422
Email: rdb@childsoc.org.uk, mobile: 07810 796508.

Good Childhood: what you told us about values, a summary of the evidence on values submitted to The Good Childhood Inquiry can be downloaded from www.goodchildhood.org.uk

The Reflections on Childhood – values poll was conducted by GfK NOP who carried out a total of 1,176 telephone interviews with a sample of UK adults aged 18 or over. Fieldwork took place from 7 January to 28 January 2008. The data was weighted to ensure it was representative of the UK population. A summary of the findings can be downloaded from www.goodchildhood.org.uk 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 early 2009.

The Children's Society is driven by the belief that every child deserves a good childhood. It provides vital help and understanding for those forgotten children who face the greatest danger, discrimination or disadvantage; children who are unable to find the support they need anywhere else. Visit www.childrenssociety.org.uk

(1) The Children's Society carried out a national survey of 8,000 14 to 16 year-olds in 2005