After a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) put the children of the UK at the bottom of child well-being rankings when compared to other industrialised nations, the charity commissioned Ipsos MORI and Dr Agnes Nairn to explore some of the reasons behind it.
In their subsequent findings, “Child well-being in the UK, Spain and Sweden”, the picture for what children really want was quite clear. They want good quality time with their family and friends above just about everything else. But it seems that parents in the UK are struggling to juggle family and work commitments despite the efforts of government to put in place family friendly policies.
Whereas parents in Spain and Sweden seem to manage these much better and don’t suffer from the same ‘time squeeze’ as UK parents. This seems to be more to do with how important ‘the family’ is in Spain and Sweden when compared to the UK.
The report said that ‘The message from all the children who participated in the research was simple, clear and unanimous: their well-being centres on time with a happy family whose interactions are consistent and secure; having good friends; and having plenty of things to do, especially outdoors.’
And that ‘Children highly value time with their parents, but parents in the UK are struggling to give them the quality time they want and need. In Spain and Sweden, there seemed to be a strong and shared social expectation that family took priority over work and other commitments.’
For some reason the acquisition of material goods seems to be much more important in the UK for families than in either Spain or Sweden. And this seemed to be more prevalent in lower income families.
The report says of this that ‘Families in the UK, more so than families in Spain and Sweden, use material goods and new technology to compensate for social insecurities and the lack of time they have to be with their children.’
The report’s authors want the government to ‘…show strong leadership in order to support families to fight back against the ways in which the UK’s materialistic culture embeds inequality in our society, affects family time and relationships, and has a negative impact on children’s well-being.’
But maybe we as individuals, parents, grand-parents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, and family friends also need to take more responsibility (a la “The Waltons”) and just spend more time with each other. Not spend more money.