Children doing better than kids 20 years ago: Study

July 1st, 2008 - 3:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, July 1 (IANS) Children seem to be doing better than their counterparts 20 years ago, contrary to popular perceptions, even as obesity, depression and substance abuse cause concern about them. “Using results from two landmark longitudinal studies we were able to make a rare comparison of children born 20 years apart,” said Alan Hayes of the Institute of Family Studies here.

The new study, released Monday, compared behavioural issues for 2- to 3-year-olds and 6- to 7-year-olds, then and now, ScienceDaily reported.

The 2- to 3-year-olds of 20 years ago were less sociable, less persistent and more reactive than those of today — the differences between the two groups of children were, however, not huge.

Significantly, more toddlers of 20 years ago had difficulty falling asleep and showed signs of aggression and destructiveness.

The comparison of 6- to 7-year-olds found that children 20 years ago were significantly more often perceived to have conduct problems and anxiety than today’s children.

The highest rates of behaviour problems for today’s 6- and 7-year-olds are restlessness, worrying, the tendency to lose their temper, fidgeting and disobedience.

However, the study threw up an interesting divide between what parents think of their children and what teachers think, according to the paper’s co-researcher, Diana Smart.

“It paints quite a different picture. Children growing up in the new millennium are doing comparatively better in some areas than those children growing up in the 1980s and we’re lucky to have this parallel information to find that out,” Hayes said.

Most of today’s parents think their children are progressing well. Teachers, on the other hand, tended to report more instances of hyperactivity and conduct problems among their charges.

“Perhaps today’s parents are more tolerant and understanding of, or less affected by challenging child behaviour and therefore less likely to report it as problematic,” Smart said.

“The other side of the coin is that today’s teachers may be more aware of conduct issues than they were in the past and more willing to report their presence,” Smart said.

“If schools have become less tightly regulated over the last 20 years, higher rates of conduct and hyperactive behaviour problems could be becoming more apparent,” Smart said.

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