Heaven knows our children are miserable now - but why?

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The Independent Online

Young people today, eh? Especially English ones. A survey from the World Health Organisation confirms that they are indeed appalling.

Young people today, eh? Especially English ones. A survey from the World Health Organisation confirms that they are indeed appalling. At 15, English children drink more alcohol, have more sex and smoke more dope than almost all of their peers anywhere in the world. Most desolate of all, at 15, English children have a lower opinion of their peers than the children of almost all other countries. Only young people in the Czech Republic find their peers less kind and helpful than British children do.

What are we to make of this miserable cri de coeur, from children who rate their quality of life as comparable to the most backward of Eastern bloc nations, rather than to France, Germany, Italy or Spain? Clearly that our children are growing up too quickly, and that it isn't making them happy. It is pretty awful that a generation of young people seems to be so drawn to self-destructive behaviour.

It is not just early drug and alcohol abuse. British children watch far, far more television than children in most other countries. British children far more often skip breakfast. Few nations feed less fruit to their children than we do, and while they actually have below-average homework, British children perceive themselves as being under greater academic stress.

Right-wingers have been quick to point out that Britain is also high up on the table of single-parent families - beaten only by Greenland, Latvia and the US. But the link is more complex than they make out. Some of the most well-adjusted young people I know have been brought up by lone parents, while some of the unhappiest adults had parents so wrapped up in each other that their children grew up feeling like spare parts. Nevertheless, the phrase "I blame the parents" has been politically incorrect for too long. For the sake of our children, we might want to dust it off.

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