The middle classes may have more money, but they have less time for their children and are increasingly likely to be isolated from various forms of help and support. As a result, their children are increasingly likely to get into trouble or develop psychological problems.
The study, by West Berkshire NHS Trust and Reading University psychology department, contradicts the common view that most "problem" children tend to come from poorer backgrounds, and that middle- or high-income couples are more successful at parenting.
On the contrary, the report suggests, middle-class life can lead to difficulties. It cites the isolation caused by moving away from close relatives to follow a career, the inability to make close friendships with neighbours because of regular moves, and the taboo of admitting to problems deemed working class.
Richard Shircore, a member of the report team, said: "The view has been that kids who get into trouble come from difficult families with a derelict car on the front drive. But now children from quite normal families are having problems.
"There has been a large rise in referrals [to child psychologists] for children who are difficult and these problems are across the board and have nothing to do with class."
The researchers combined information gathered from more than 120 parents with evidence from 100 parent support agencies as well as parent discussion groups, all from West Berkshire. The parents interviewed ranged from some earning more than pounds 30,000 a year to those who earned less than pounds 5,000. More than 80 per cent of them said they needed more help with parenting.
Arlene Vetere, a clinical psychologist who also helped compile the report, said better-off parents struggling to cope with difficult children often failed to face up to their problems. "Middle-class families have different resources. They are not in contact with social services like poor families are. They also may be pillars of the community and would not want people to know they were having problems."
Parents also complained at the lack of support from schools unless their child was exceptionally disruptive. Many parents interviewed said they had to struggle to get their child's problems recognised by their school.
Another member of the team, consultant clinical psychologist Dr Tim Williams, said: "The more prosperous families would not have time to chat over the garden fence and set up support networks. If both parents worked they would find themselves very isolated."Reuse content