A new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on ‘a fit and healthy childhood’ encourages adults to let children engage in more risky activities, including rough-and-tumble play and ‘playing near potentially dangerous elements such as water and cliffs’. Children should also be allowed to go out ‘exploring alone with the possibility of getting lost’, according to the group, which is chaired by Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick and Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Floella Benjamin.Continue reading “Tick-box policy won’t raise free-range kids”
This week, the Children’s Society has published yet another report highlighting how bad it is to grow up in England. The Good Childhood Report 2015 has made headlines, with one newspaper warning that English children are ‘among the unhappiest in the world at school due to bullying’. But what the Children’s Society’s data actually show does not merit the dire reporting. So why the uncritical, hyperbolic coverage?Continue reading “The myth of England’s miserable kids”
The idea that the first three years of a child’s life are more important than other phases is increasingly dominant in policy and media circles. John Bruer, president of the US James S McDonnell Foundation in Missouri, has made an international impact challenging this determinist outlook. His book The Myth of the First Three Years: A New Understanding of Early Brain Development and Lifelong Learning (published back in 1999) debunks the popular idea that early experiences will have an all-or-nothing effect on a child’s brain and development. Later this week, Bruer will be speaking at Kent University’s Centre for Parenting Culture Studies conference in London titled The Uses And Abuses Of Biology: Neuroscience, Parenting and Family Policy in Britain. In the run-up to the conference, I posed some questions to Bruer about The Myth of the first three years and what has changed since it was first published.Continue reading “Early childhood maketh not the man”
This morning, I took part in a discussion about ‘sibling bullying’ on BBC Radio Scotland’s Call Kaye. It left me with the sinking feeling that the anti-bullying bandwagon could build up a lot more steam.
The issue of ‘sibling bullying’ has hit the headlines and airwaves over the past few days because of a ‘new study’ (actually published in July) in the journal Pediatrics, warning that the effect of sibling aggression for children’s and adolescents’ mental health ‘should not be dismissed’. But I think it should be dismissed.Continue reading “Giving sibling rivalry a bad name”
The idea that infant experiences are more important than experiences later in life in determining who we are dominates policy discussions on both sides of the Atlantic. Earlier this year, for example, US president Barack Obama claimed that ‘the early years in a child’s life – when the human brain is forming – represent a critically important window of opportunity to develop a child’s full potential’.
In the UK, all the main political parties believe we can explain who we are as adults on the basis of the type of care we received in infancy. There is a policymaking consensus that the state has to intervene in family life – as early as possible – to identify and ‘support’ inadequate parents.Continue reading “The deterministic myth of the ‘early years’”
On 22 May, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) published DSM-5, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, after months, perhaps even years, of speculation about its contents.
Its critics warned that DSM-5 would lead to the further overdiagnosis of children and adults. The Economist reported that 11 per cent of American school-age children have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and that DSM-5 would likely lead to even more ADHD diagnoses. Considering the majority of those diagnosed are on prescription drugs, this is a worrying development. So worrying, in fact, that Dr Allen Frances, Professor Emeritus at Duke University and former Chair of the task force that developed DSM-IV, writes: ‘If people make the mistake of following DSM-5, pretty soon all of us may be labelled mad.’Continue reading “‘This manual is, frankly, a disaster for children’”
Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy by Emily Bazelon, senior editor for online magazine Slate, is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the issue of bullying.Continue reading “What’s worse than bullying? Anti-bullying intervention”