Half the population believes children are dangerous and behave like animals, a survey revealed today.
The results show an "unjustified and disturbing intolerance of children in the UK", said children's charity Barnardo's which commissioned the research.
The poll of 2,021 adults, conducted by YouGov, showed that 53 per cent believed children were beginning to behave like animals, while 49 per cent said children were increasingly dangerous both to each other and to adults.
Barnardo's said the attitudes revealed by the study reflected the results of the British Crime Survey, published in November, which showed that people blame children for "up to half of all crime" when in fact they are only responsible for 12 per cent of criminal activity.
Barnardo's chief executive Martin Narey said: "It is appalling that words like 'animal', 'feral' and 'vermin' are used daily in reference to children.
"Despite the fact that most children are not troublesome there is still a perception that today's young people are a more unruly, criminal lot than ever before.
"The British public overestimates, by a factor of four, the amount of crime committed by young people. The real crime is that this sort of talk and attitude does nothing to help those young people who are difficult, unruly or badly behaved to change their ways."
Alongside its survey, Barnardo's launched a report which said children who engaged in illegal and antisocial behaviour were those in most need of support.
The report claimed that children who become involved in criminal activity come from the most deprived families, have the poorest educational experiences and are more likely to suffer from poor health.
Nearly half of those who responded to the Barnardo's-YouGov poll disagreed that children who get into trouble are often misunderstood and in need of professional help.
Barnardo's aims to tackle negative perceptions of children with its first major TV advertisement to air next Monday.Reuse content