The Good Childhood Inquiry report commissioned by the Children’s Society tries to explain why children in Britain are the unhappiest in the developed world.
Much of the media has seized upon the sections of the report which identify working mothers as a key factor in “damaging” children.
The report suggests that, “Women’s new economic independence has made women much less dependent on their male partner, as has the advent of the welfare state. These factors have contributed to the rise of family break up.”
Using the growing unhappiness among children as a stick to beat working mothers is a dangerous attempt to roll back the gains that women have made. It also misses the real issues.
As the Children’s Society report itself points out, there are plenty of reasons for children to be unhappy in today’s society – ranging from the testing culture in schools to the lack of public space for young people to play.
It is a disgrace that millions of children in Britain are growing up in poverty. Some 5.5 million children now live in a household with an income of less than £10 per person per day according to the Campaign to End Child Poverty.
Working class families are coming under increasing pressure due to the recession. Parents are also particularly hard hit by the lack of affordable childcare.
The new report does touch on all these issues. It has some suggestions we should support such as abolishing Sats tests and raising pay for people working with children.
But for the right wing media to raise these issues would mean challenging the common sense that the “traditional family” must be defended at all costs and that women are to blame.