To agree that 'The UK had been labelled the worst country in the west for a child to grow up in.'

(60 Posts)
Buddhagirl Wed 10-Apr-13 13:17:08

"The UK had been labelled the worst country in the west for a child to grow up in. Politicians, church leaders and charities complained that a generation was being failed.

The evidence for this gloomy prognosis was a Unicef report on child well-being in rich countries.

The UK emerged an ignominious 21st out of 21 developed nations and Time magazine ran a front cover suggesting British children were "unhappy, unloved and out of control".

Now we have the much anticipated update and similar voices are out in force to make the same point.

Education Minister David Laws says the report "lays bare Labour's failures on education and child well-being".

I work in mental health and see this so much. "My mother never showed me love", "My parents never taught me how to cope" Obviously I will see people from a select section of society who suffer so not a good sample to base an opinion on and obviously there are a lot of good parents out there.

Do you agree with this article? If so why do you think the UK has been ranked 21 out of 21?

DorcasDelIcatessen Wed 10-Apr-13 13:20:14


FlowersBlown Wed 10-Apr-13 13:23:14

We are such a divided country. Children from well off backgrounds do just fine. But we have so many children being raised in poverty, with all the stress and tension that go with that - unsecured and poor quality housing, moving frequently both home and school, living in areas with many social problems. Not enough is done to help people and it becomes a vicious circle.

iwantavuvezela Wed 10-Apr-13 13:23:26

I thought that was the previous study, and the new one show UK overall around number 11. Interestingly in the new study uSA in bottom four. However the new study does not reflect the impact of cuts.

LessMissAbs Wed 10-Apr-13 13:23:54

Has it really? Not surprising, I guess. Its about time this was recognised so that something can be done about it, instead of political rhetoric telling us all is wonderful.

WorriedMummy73 Wed 10-Apr-13 13:24:30

Waits for all the 'there is no poverty, only neglect' bashers to jump on board...

HollyBerryBush Wed 10-Apr-13 13:25:39

Todays article

The charity ranks the UK 16th out of 29 developed countries, up from 21st - and last - place in a 2007 table.

manicinsomniac Wed 10-Apr-13 13:26:29

first world problems really though, aren't they. 'My parents never taught me how to cope?!' Wow.

I know we're talking about rich countries here but I can't see how we could bottom, even so.

Children have it pretty good in the UK, imo. Not all, obviously. But most.

ChunkyPickle Wed 10-Apr-13 13:28:39


I don't have time right now to read the whole report, but I just looked at the summary chart, and compared the only 2 countries I have significant experience of (and one I know a little about) UK, Spain, and a bit of Ireland and I find the Spanish results mystifyingly good compared to my experience.

I think that it's very hard to compare children in two areas of one country (think of my rural upbringing vs. my cousins city one), so to come up with one number for the health and happiness of children in a country seems almost meaningless to me.

Well thats alright then. Aslong as some kids have it good the rest should just get over it. hmm

The point is that we are a developed country. A democracy. A civilised society. And yet a substantial number of kids here are growing up in terrible situations.

WestieMamma Wed 10-Apr-13 13:32:51

Having grown up in the UK, which always comes out near the bottom of these type of rankings, and now living in Sweden, which always comes out near the top, I'd say it's because the UK as whole (not on an individual level) doesn't value it's children enough.

Parents are worked to the bone just to keep a roof over their heads and can't give their children the time they'd like to because they're knackered. They're also stressed, trying to juggle childcare, school, holidays, work, and god help them if their child is poorly. I've been there, sending my daughter off to grandparents when she's sick because I have to work.

In Sweden a parent would never be expected to put work before their child. Parents get statutory sick pay to look after a sick child. Good quality, heavily subsided childcare is available to everyone and well within their means. All children get free school meals. All children get a free education (including university).

It also feels here that children are still allowed to be children. Small communities where everyone knows their neighbours and watches out for each other and children still get to play outside and ride their bikes and be part of something.

ChunkyPickle Wed 10-Apr-13 13:41:43

wannabe - that's not what I said, what I mean is that this doesn't really tell you anything, it's like the myth that people only lived to an average age of 35 in the middle ages - not true, it's just that lots of children died young which makes the average a meaningless number that tells you nothing useful.

We a are a democracy, a civilised country, where children have access to medical and dental care, and education for free. Yes, some children have trouble accessing it and we need to work on that, but there are countries on that list that can't even meet those standards.

Brits are very into bashing themselves up about how awful we are but so many people haven't lived in countries where they can't afford to take their kids to the dentist, or where going to school means spending a fortune in supplies, or where even if the doctor is free, perhaps you can't afford the medicine, or you family has to provide all your care whilst you're in hospital.

hairtearing Wed 10-Apr-13 14:06:27

I actually struggle to see how the Uk comes bottom when compared to countries with abject poverty,open child prostitution, child marriage, war torn countries, child labour.

That's very true Chunky, it's important to be grateful for what you have. But sometimes I think people in the UK can be a bit too complacent about things as well, almost fatalistic about things that aren't going well, as if there's not much to be done about it. And in that sense, I think it's good to look at other countries that have similar resources/issues but manage to do a lot better.

I think Westie makes a great point that it's also about the overall stress level of the parents, not just the things that directly affect children. We left London 2 years ago and where we live now in France it's actually possible to have a family and a good quality of life on one modest salary only (cheap rent, heavily subsidised childcare). Tenants rights are very strong so even as renters we have a lot of stability. It makes such a huge difference.

Making life easier for parents is probably the biggest way to help children, I think.

MsBella Wed 10-Apr-13 14:22:45

Well there is child poverty in the UK, I'm pretty surprised this is considered the worst developed country for a child... I just can't help thinking it should maybe be America what with all the stuff that goes on there, their welfare system is a load of shit, there are guns, not really an nhs type system, I could go on...

expatinscotland Wed 10-Apr-13 14:23:48

Interesting post, wannabedomestic.

hairtearing Wed 10-Apr-13 14:25:58

Good point bella, I forgot about america their health system is disgraceful.

expatinscotland Wed 10-Apr-13 14:26:10

Sorry, Westie.

Backtobedlam Wed 10-Apr-13 15:23:55

I've skim read some of the report as on my phone and not easy to read for too long. However, in the context of developed countries, I would agree that the UK children don't have it as good as some of their peers in Europe. The starting school age, for example, is higher in the UK and I think our children miss out on a lot of the family experiences because if this. They don't get to run around, play games or freely socialise with other children for very long at all before they are pushed into full time education.

For those in very deprived areas early education and preschool places is certainly beneficial, but our education system has changed the way all children's upbringing is viewed in society. We live in a fairly affluent area, but from the age of 2 I have been frequently asked when dc's will be in nursery, and made to feel that they are somehow missing out if they are not in some sort of formal establishment. At the same age, and older their European counterparts are playing, going to the park, learning to run, hit a ball and other skills that set them up physically and socially for a happier life.

LyingWitchInTheWardrobe Wed 10-Apr-13 15:25:35

Too many people failing to recognise that they wouldn't be good parents and having children...

HumphreyCobbler Wed 10-Apr-13 15:28:15

That was the last study, as someone above said. The new one puts us at number 11 and we have moved up more than any other country.

So things are improving - childhood obesity levels was one example I remembered. We are still the worst for NEETS though.

mummytime Wed 10-Apr-13 15:58:09

YABU because as people have said you are quoting the last study, which was widely debated at the time. We have improved a lot in the latest one.

kim147 Wed 10-Apr-13 16:14:16

Will be interesting to hear how the cuts impact on this. Do they also measure the stress children are under at school?

HumphreyCobbler Wed 10-Apr-13 16:16:47

It is interesting kim147. We were at the bottom of the table when Labour were in power with all the associated spending. I am deeply suspicious of these kinds of surveys tbh, although I don't exactly speak with any knowledge base here blush

kim147 Wed 10-Apr-13 16:18:47

I don't think I would like to be a pupil in today's schools. "You are not a person, you are a level".

And the impact of the recent cuts, foodbanks - but at least we're not Greece or Ireland sad

BumbleBee2011 Wed 10-Apr-13 16:28:44

YANBU, I think bullying and media pressure is robbing a lot of kids of their childhoods nowadays - and that affects kids from all backgrounds.

5madthings Wed 10-Apr-13 16:33:05

Yabu as that study is the old one, the new one puts us 16th? Out if 29 countries.

Yanbu yo think we need to improve things.

hairtearing Wed 10-Apr-13 19:00:05

Too many people failing to recognise that they wouldn't be good parents and having children...

That argument doesn't work, back in day more people had more children so its just maths that there were more bad parents back then than now.

lljkk Wed 10-Apr-13 19:04:00

So like the British to take this to heart & get filled with angst.

TidyDancer Wed 10-Apr-13 19:05:31

Having lived in both Germany and the US for periods, I can say I'd rather raise my children in the UK than either of those.

I am surprised at any study that ranks the UK last and would question the validity of it.

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Wed 10-Apr-13 19:08:45

That report's from 2007. We get a mid table result this time.

I grew up in the UK but now live in NZ (which doesn't tend to come out terribly well in these surveys, but tends to do better than the UK) and the main differences I notice are these:

1. Adults in NZ are less likely to treat younger children as breakable objects and older children as caged beasts.

2. Children in NZ are less likely to treat adults as prison warders. They are less likely to assume that the world is out to get them.

3. In short, children and adults are less likely to treat each other as aliens from another planet.

4. Services relating to children (be they provided by government of private business) aren't so heavily regulated and tend to involve more common-sense. Schools particularly operate with far more autonomy than in the UK.

cory Thu 11-Apr-13 07:59:02

These surveys are pretty depressing to read but difficult to interpret. I am not immediately convinced that my dc have a worse quality of life than their Swedish cousins.

MaryRobinson Thu 11-Apr-13 08:30:24

I think British children do have it really hard. I've lived in Ireland and in a top three country and it is definitely harder for kids in the UK.
Even when I read Mumsnet, the prevalence and depth of problems even in average family seems very tough to me. I can imagine children so grow up feeling unloved and Not Good Enough because of the emphasis on always doing well/ having good friends/having perfect table manners/always being polite .... Not much time to just be

cory Thu 11-Apr-13 08:55:05

Do you really think the children of most mumsnetters are unloved, Mary? And do you think you could get an accurate idea of this from a forum where people come to vent their frustrations?

I am somebody who comes on here a lot to vent because dd has emotional health problems- inherited from her Swedish grandmother who inherited them from my equally Swedish grandfather.

I remember my childhood in Sweden well enough to realise that dd would have been no different if we had lived there: it didn't cure my mother. The only difference was, we were never allowed to speak openly of mum's problems because the prevalent discourse was of Happy Families (and I shouldn't be surprised if that doesn't account for some difference in the filling in of surveys).

Then again, dd is getting treatment, whilst mum was left to struggle on without help. I remember how difficult her bad years were for her. But if she had filled in a survey it would have been about the wonderful quality of her life, because that was the way she had been taught to think. I am sure my life is much easier in reality because I can come on here and scream when things are crap.

I find it odd how those places where people believe children have charmed lives are those same places where the rate of teen suicide is very high, in particular New Zealand and Sweden. Although I'm not sure what that means, if it means anything, just that I find it odd.

2rebecca Thu 11-Apr-13 09:35:35

My kids are loved, well fed and housed and educated and have a wide range of interests. Their friends usually seem cheerful. A German exchange student thought the kids he met were friendly and had more freedom than many in Germany.
I'm not sure these lists of which country does best really tell you anything unless they are looking at objective measures like GDP. We still turn out more creative thinkers than most other countries.
My kids will be deprived in their relationships by the statistics in this report though because they class any child in a step family of living with just 1 parent as having poor relationships.

KobayashiMaru Thu 11-Apr-13 09:43:28

I think its more that people in the UK are miserable moaners that can't see how good most of them have it. I don't know any other country that complains so much about everything.

Oblomov Thu 11-Apr-13 09:46:03

I find this very hard to accept. I appreciate that sweden for example has many better things, sick days for parents to crae for sick children.

But that the UK is so low down. No. Sorry. TRIPE.
My parenting leaves alot to be desired sometimes, but my kids are loved and well cared for. This morning I had both of them in our bed for a cuddle and now they are sat downstairs watching tv.

ATJabberwocky Thu 11-Apr-13 09:46:46

Completely agree with manicinsomniac, It's first world problems.

MaryRobinson Thu 11-Apr-13 11:33:10

I think there is a massive difference between "I love my child" and "I feel loved by my Parents". They aren't the same thing at all, and I think that was the point OP made.

MaryRobinson Thu 11-Apr-13 11:34:24

Sorry, meant to add that I do find the comments about rates of teen suicide and national Happy-think interesting.

EuroShaggleton Thu 11-Apr-13 11:38:35

Of course it's first world problems - by definition. The survey is focussed on developed countries.

Chockyeggpants Thu 11-Apr-13 13:23:01

1. Yes there is poverty in the UK.
2. There is a lot of neglect going on, not just in the stereotypical poor or working class household, but in more affluent households too. How many well off parents like to give the child designer goods, gadgets etc instead of spending time together doing things and listening to their child?

Chockyeggpants Thu 11-Apr-13 13:25:25

Also many UK children are under a lot of stress, I'm thinking of children caring for their sick or disabled parents for example.
Also children with drug addict or alcoholic parents.

Koyangwuti Thu 11-Apr-13 13:33:28

I've lived in a few countries in this world and while the UK is not what I believe to be the best place to grow up, I do believe it is a great place to grow up.

I think these kind of studies tend to come from people with an agenda and they are going to display the results the people commissioning the study want or the study would not be done in the first place. My children are very happy children who feel real gratitude for where they live and what they have. I think we as parents have far more control over whether our children grow up well or not than the country in which they happen to live. Wherever life may take me, I'm going to help my children be happy, have fun, and have a positive outlook.

givemeaclue Thu 11-Apr-13 13:40:52

Yabu, they are previous figures

FreudiansSlipper Thu 11-Apr-13 13:59:31

a few years ago I was thinking of moving to the states. my family live in California. in some ways it is a lovely life but if you fall on hard times it is not at all the difference in the education and health care you get is staggering and the quality of life you can have very much depends on where you live. my nieces have in some ways things better than ds but less freedom to go anywhere alone until they are adults and can drive that really is a downside

I would imagine parents of young adults living in spain and Greece are vey worried about their childrens future too

we have to improve and wish would look to countries like Sweden regarding childcare and the need for community. the poor areas around paris and marseille are really depressing places to bring up children

Oblomov Thu 11-Apr-13 14:08:38

"the UK has moved up from 16th to 11th place, one of the biggest increases among rich countries, with more than 85% of British children saying they have a high level of overall life satisfaction."
So, 85% of those surveyed, said they were happy.
So thats good.
And who are these kids that have took part in the survey?

TumbleWeeds Thu 11-Apr-13 14:14:37

hmm at people thinking that these stats means that their * personal* parenting isn't good enough...

What they mean is that the whole society is failing children. It's the way we parent children, the way all adults relate to children, school, expectations etc... All that impact on the well-being of children and therefore on the level of teenage pregnancy, the age teenagers have sex first time, levels of depression amongst children etc etc
These are what these stats are based on and clearly the Uk isn't doing well.

We can't just look at what we personally do or what is happening in poor areas (such as Marseille or London etc... Inner cities are always depressing)

When I listen to my 10yo, he tells me that other children are judging each other based on how many electronic toys they have, whether they do 'unusual' things (which is BAD). If you don't have a Wii then you, as a person, isn't good enough (Nothing to do with your parents not having the money or being very strict...). If you like unusual stuff (like mushromms) you stand out and you are a freak.
There is such a pressure on young people to have all the right STUFF (all material things) and very little aspiration for the future (what do you want to do? A footballer... And what about being a doctor, a plumber, visit the world, change the world and make it a better place, become a nurse or an artist???).

I am guessing that we were evaluating the UK on the level of happiness, we would also do quite badly actually.

flaminghoopsaloohlah Thu 11-Apr-13 14:21:24

I'd much rather my kids grow up here than the USA - at the rate the government is going the whole country is going to be ruled by religious dictatorship. Things may seem bad here...but there are a lot of plusses too.

Oblomov Thu 11-Apr-13 15:55:37

Tumble, I wasn't takign it to be a personal attack on my parenting.
And what you are talkign about, being normal, having the latest things, they were the same in the 80's as they are now. And thta doesn't happen in sweden and the like. Bet it does.
But I do believe children are listened to and cherished. Teenage pregnancies. well we've always had alot of those.
And I wonder what exactly they want the UK to do to catch up with the rest. Has it been spelled out to us?

Oblomov Thu 11-Apr-13 15:58:59

"I am guessing that we were evaluating the UK on the level of happiness, we would also do quite badly actually."
Yet many of us on MN have roofs over our heads and not THAT much to worry about. We are well, well fed, children go to school, have presents bought for them. Want for not that much. yet we do nothing but complain ( I am THE worst at this wink) Comparitively. Like in the UK is THAT dredful is it?
Apparently not to 85% of the children they interviewed. I think that's pretty good.

Mitchy1nge Thu 11-Apr-13 16:08:49

hm very interesting

yesterday my youngest daughter (13) asked me 'why don't english people like children much?' (we are on holiday where about three out of every ten passers by makes a huge fuss of my grandson) she's noticed especially the difference in restaurants, shops, public transport etc. I think the 'seen and not heard' thing is still making itself felt today but I didn't know what else to tell her.

MyDarlingClementine Thu 11-Apr-13 19:26:29

westiemama Sweden sounds idyllic must be downsides somewhere.

MyDarlingClementine Thu 11-Apr-13 19:29:33

Personally I don't feel much warmth towards DC here. I notice the difference as soon as I go abroad, so much sheer warmth directed at my DC, Italy/Spain/Morocco....

A DC cries here and you can feel people stiffen and give side looks - a Dc is long will it last.

A Dc cries abroad and someone will smile, try to distract, tuck under the chin, have a chat about it!


I've noticed that too when I've been back visiting the UK from NZ. People down here don't make a huge fuss of children, but they are normally nicer to them, treating them like young adults in a phlegmatic, slightly avuncular sort of way.

NZ doesn't do well on these surveys - it has a dreadful problem with domestic abuse, children are more likely to be injured and killed in accidents, and (as someone noted above) a high teen suicide rate, but it does tend to finish above the UK on average. My observation is that NZers are quite robust in their parenting and in the way they handle children generally, they back themselve to know what is right for their child, and don't worry too much about whether they might get something wrong.

Another thing which I learned with some embarassment is that it is true that people in the UK (and I mean the whole of the UK, not just England) tend to moan a bit, and assume the odds are against them. This is true for children too, and I'm sure negatively affects their sense of wellbeing.

Oh, and in NZ it is quite acceptable for a girl to be tomboy. On the other hand, I think studious boys don't have a great time, either in access to culture or the way they are percieved.

SqueakyCleanNameChange Thu 11-Apr-13 19:42:23

So, OP. when we were bottom of the table, you thought that said something very important and true about how dreadful life was for children in the UK, that we should all take very seriously.

Now we're comfortably in the top half of the table for Western nations, (without even considering the countries where death, disease, malnutrition, illiteracy and war are widespread risks) and by far the most improved, do you think that says something important about how great life is for our children?

The point of these surveys, as I understand them, is to identify ares where countries might make some improvements. It is rather asinine to shrug and say "it's all so great compared to Somalia, so let's do nothing".

My recollection is that the UK remains closer to the bottom than the top of most of these child-wellbeing lists, even if it has moved up them a bit (probably because comparable countries have been affected by the GFC).

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