UK parents most protective in the world
PARENTS in Britain are the most protective in the world, not letting their children roam much further than their front gardens, a report revealed yesterday.
Researchers found that a fifth of mothers in the UK wanted to supervise their child's every move, not allowing them far from home on their own.
But experts said that by being over-protective, parents could be damaging their children and depriving them of the carefree upbringing young people enjoyed in the past.
The research compared studies carried out on parental attitudes to children's freedom in ten countries around the world.
In the UK, 19 per cent of mothers said they wanted to supervise their children's activities. This was despite the fact that 64 per cent of parents believed that children were deprived of childhood.
Compared with the UK, other countries had more relaxed attitudes to children playing unsupervised. In Argentina 18 per cent of mothers said they wanted to watch over what their children were doing, followed by the United States (15 per cent), South Africa (14 per cent), France (10 per cent), China (8 per cent), Brazil (7 per cent), Thailand (6 per cent) Turkey (5 per cent), and India (4 per cent).
Yale researchers Dr Jerome and Dorothy Singer also looked at research showing how far children were allowed to roam from home on their own.
They pointed to research by the Children's Society which found that in 1970 the average UK nine-year-old was free to wander 919 yards – a ten-minute walk – from home. By 1997, that figure was 316 yards, and by 2007, the boundary had moved to just outside the front gate – classed as a no-minute walk.
Not allowing children to indulge in unstructured "free play" could harm their ability to form social relationships and hamper their chances of boosting creativity, the report said.
Kris Murrin, a child behavioural expert, said: "If we can increase play in childhood years, we can help increase emotional development and social skills needed for later on in life. In turn, this will provide reassurance of a safe environment for our future generation to grow up in. Children need to be encouraged to behave like children and most importantly need time to explore and play in order to have formative experiences."
Sue Palmer, Edinburgh-based education expert and author of Toxic Childhood, said children not being given the freedom to play outside alone was "one of the most worrying factors of modern life".
"The potential effects of over-protecting our children are disastrous," she said.
"They need to develop independence during their childhood. That means developing social skills, confidence, resilience and being able to cope with what life throws at you."
Ms Palmer said that while she understood parents' concerns, they needed to allow their children to gain independence. "Parents need to look at how they can help children deal with potential dangers, such as from traffic or from strangers."
How breast feeding triggers a bond with babies
THE importance of a mother bonding with her baby cannot be overstated and breast-feeding is often a key to making that crucial link.
Now scientists have identified exactly how the process of breast-feeding triggers a surge of "trust hormones" in the mother's brain, making her feel at one with her new child.
The hormone oxytocin has long been known to cause milk to be released from the mammary glands when triggered by a suckling infant.
The hormone is also linked to trust and love in both animals and humans.
But it has not been known until now how breast-feeding triggers the prolonged wave of oxytocin needed to keep the milk flowing.
Researchers from Warwick University found that in response to suckling, nerve cells start to release oxytocin from their endings and elsewhere in the cells.
The finding was unexpected because usually the parts of the cell involved in this process receive information from the brain, rather than transmit it.
The result is a swarm of what researchers described as "oxytocin factories", producing bursts of the hormone at roughly five-minute intervals.
Professor Jianfeng Feng said: "We knew that these pulses arise because, during suckling, oxytocin neurons fire together in dramatic synchronised bursts.
"But exactly how these bursts arise has been a major problem that has until now eluded explanation."
Analysis - Frightened society is preventing youngsters growing up
CHILDREN in the past were given much more freedom than they are now.
They were allowed out to play on their own, often roaming quite far from home, playing ball games and having a good time.
Now there are several factors that mean this is far less likely to happen.
We live in a much more overtly unsafe and insecure society where rates of violent crimes and crimes against children are high.
As a result parents are reluctant to release their children into danger.
Traffic is also much heavier, with a much higher risk of children being knocked down than they are of being abducted.
On top of this, children are much more attached to their computers than in previous years.
They would rather sit and play a game than mix with each other. Whereas people used to go out and play a game of golf or tennis, they now play it on the computer from their sofa.
There are physical, psychological and social implications from this type of lifestyle that are damaging to our children. They are getting less exercise, less fresh air and are just not getting out and enjoying being outside. We gain a vast amount healthwise from being in the great outdoors.
The psycho-social factors affecting children include the fact they are not mixing with each other so their language is suffering.
Also. they are not getting the experience of challenging each other's thoughts and they are not getting experience in creativity such as playing imaginary games. These games help prepare them for adult roles.
They are also not getting the chance to bounce ideas off each other.
As a society, we are becoming much more recluse-like in our homes. Children are now having more difficulties adapting to leaving home. The age that children are leaving their parents is much greater than it used to be.
Because children are now staying at home longer they are not taking on the role of adult as quickly and easily as they used to. They are not taking on the independent role and so they are struggling with maturing into grown-ups.
• Dr Andrina McCormack is a chartered psychologist based in the East of Scotland
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