Page last updated at 06:33 GMT, Sunday, 1 February 2009

Children's lives 'harder today'

Girls playing with computer game
The report sets out ways to improve the lives of children

Children's lives are more difficult now than they were in the past, according to the largest survey into childhood ever to be conducted in the UK.

The finding comes despite the authors saying children have better education, health and more possessions.

It states children need to be loved and sets out recommendations to parents, teachers and the government on how they can better care for children.

The Sunday Times says the Children's Society report had 35,000 contributors.

Problems

The document, entitled A Good Childhood - which is due out on Monday - also backs traditional families, saying that by the age of three, children of single parents are three times more likely to have behavioural problems.

Child psychologist Laverne Antrobus: 'I think that parents can feel very guilty'

Child psychologist Laverne Antrobus told BBC News that children are likely to let their parents know when they are not happy.

She said: "I think as a parent you're never quite sure if you're doing the right thing actually. But children can, under certain circumstances if the environment's not right for them, they let you know through their behaviour."

The study also suggests children of single-parent families are twice as likely to experience poor conceptual development compared with those with married parents.

The report's recommendations include the introduction of a civil birth ceremony and the possibility for parents to take three-years' leave, with a guaranteed return to work.

Lincolnshire mother Sarah Parish said she refused to believe her children suffered as a result of her job.

"I wanted to find me again and have something for me as well as the children.

What would we do if our aim was a world based on love?
A Good Childhood report

"I enjoy my job, I knew they would be no worse off at nursery as they are at home with me.

I do miss them incredibly but I make sure I spend time with them and do the things they enjoy doing as well," she said.

The report also looks at what it describes as "a massive change in our way of life" - the fact that 70% of mothers now work, compared with around a quarter 25 years ago - and that one in three 16-year-olds now live apart from their father.

The Sunday Times quotes the report as stating a key factor in the increased difficulties faced by children is the "excessively individualistic ethos" of contemporary British society.

HAVE YOUR SAY
My kids have it much easier than I did at their age. It helps when you have someone looking out for your best interest.
Maureen, Florida

The paper says the report calls for "a radical shift away from the excessively individualistic ethos which now prevails, to an ethos where the constant question is, 'What would we do if our aim was a world based on love?'"

The paper reports the study is endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and that it is independent, but commissioned by the Church of England-affiliated Children's Society.

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