Many children in Britain are growing up in a much more secure and affluent environment, but this is being undone by a culture of selfishness, says a major report from the Church of England Children's Society.
The inquiry concludes that most of the obstacles children face today are linked to the belief among adults that the prime duty of the individual is to make the most of their own life, rather than contribute to the good of others.
The resulting report, A Good Childhood, says excessive individualism is causing a range of problems for children including: high family break-up, teenage unkindness, commercial pressures towards premature sexualisation, unprincipled advertising, too much competition in education and acceptance of income inequality.
The report says that although freedom and self-determination bring many blessings, the balance has tilted too far towards individualism in Britain.
The Good Childhood Inquiry received evidence from over 30,000 children, adults and professionals and undertook a comprehensive review of all the available research. It looked at these seven aspects of childhood:
1. Children with single or step parents are 50% more likely to suffer with lower academic achievement, poor self-esteem, unpopularity with other children, behavioural difficulties and depression.
2. The age at which people have their first sexual experience has dropped dramatically due to many forces including more privacy when both parents work and commercial pressures.
3. Promotion of sugary, salty high-fat foods to children is leading to rising obesity, and the upward trend in media violence is helping to produce an increase in the levels of violent behaviour.
4. There needs to be a significant change at the heart of society, so that adults, be they parents or teachers, are less embarrassed to stand up for the values without which a society cannot flourish.
5. To maximise its league table position a school has no incentive to improve the scores of the 30% of children who are well below the target level of five good GCSEs.
6. Only a quarter of children that are seriously troubled or disturbed by mental health difficulties are getting any kind of specialist help.
7. On inequalities, more money will have to be redistributed from the rich to the poor if the Government is to hit its target of eradicating child poverty by 2020.
The Children's Society (formally The Church of England Children's Society) is a national charity committed to making childhood better for all children in the UK.
It operates a national network of centres and projects that deliver specialist services for children who face danger or disadvantage in their daily lives; children who are unable to find the support they need anywhere else.
The charity’s schools work, children’s centres and mentoring programmes help children develop the skills and confidence they need to make the most of their childhood and play a full part in their local communities, while its research and campaigning aims to influence the thinking of everyone - from the general public to politicians and decision makers - "creating real change and making childhood better for all children", it says.