Page last updated at 08:49 GMT, Monday, 13 February 2006

Culture of respect: The Christopher family

Robert and Margaret Christopher arrived in the UK from the Caribbean in 1965, in an era when thousands of other immigrants were coming to Britain from the Commonwealth.

Pictured (clockwise): Robert & Margaret Christopher, Simone Townsend, Ricky Christopher,  Shez Christopher,  Simone Pennant,  Deborah Christopher

Now both retired, they live in Hertfordshire.

They have five children - three sons including Ricky, a pastor and daughters Deborah, a businesswoman and Shez, a lawyer.

Among the third generation of the Christopher family are Deborah's daughter, Simone Pennant, a prison worker and Ricky's eldest daughter, 10-year-old Simone Townsend.

Robert, 68, and Margaret Christopher, 66

Robert: "My Caribbean background very much influenced my notion of respect. My parents brought me up in the church tradition - there were 12 of us and we did not stray too far because the church was always there as a school of life in which you were morally guided.

"Since I came to the UK I have seen the notion of respect change. I think as society gets more affluent, things change with the affluence and modern society, so to speak. In the past we had respect for the elderly, I find that's lacking in much of the younger generation today."

Margaret: "We instilled respect in our children the old-fashioned Caribbean way which was not sparing the rod and discipline. But it wasn't all rod, rod, rod - there were sticks and carrots.

"It had to be with other things to complement it otherwise it would have been as useless as the alternatives people are putting forward today like sending children to their rooms, not giving them pocket money or letting them go out."

Ricky, 43, Deborah, 42, and Shez Christopher, 40

Ricky: "As children we understood respect in terms of 'honour your mother and father'. We instinctively respected our parents because we saw what hardships they were going through to support us.

"I think the definition of respect has changed now within families because the younger generation demonstrate no type of fear about answering any adult back, be it their parents, teachers or anybody else in authority."

Deborah: "There is still quite a bit of respect within the Caribbean culture but it's not as obvious as it was when we were being raised. We've not had that 'in your face' type of disrespect from our children but I can see it coming from the generation below and that's also within the Caribbean culture.

"I'm a great disciplinarian, I certainly believe in using the rod but with reasoning as well so the child has an understanding as to why they're being punished. The more rights children have - like the right to divorce your parents, call the state and complain about family discipline - the worse things are going to be because when they do go off the rails, the state's not going to pick up the pieces."

Shez: "One of the main difference between my parents' generation and our generation is when we're bringing up our children we do still instil respect. However our generation is not afraid to admit when we're wrong and say 'I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that.'

"Because we're all integrated into one main culture now there isn't an awful lot of difference between black, white or Asian, especially for people below the age of 25.

"When you look at the 25-and-unders, especially the teenagers, it's very, very frightening. They've taken certain morals out of the school so as not to offend cultures and that has had its effect."

Simone Pennant, 23, and Simone Townsend, 10

Simone Pennant: "There is definitely a difference in the way that every culture is raised. I do think there is more of a lack of respect in so-called white culture than there is in the Asian or black culture.

"And maybe there's a little bit more respect in the Asian culture than in the Caribbean culture."

Simone Townsend: "I think that the parents of children who misbehave should do something about it instead of leaving them to argue and shout at them because it looks like the parents are the children and the children are the parents."


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