The middle classes are retreating from the public sphere, and they have taken their kids with them. This books shows that all children’s quality of life is suffering as a result.
Children in today’s Britain have become the ‘invisible citizens’ whose lives are lived in a privatised world controlled increasingly by adults. At the same time, childhood stress and the ‘diseases of affluence’ such as anorexia and asthma are on the increase.
Children now have fewer chances to experience the wider world, which their parents often view anxiously. Exaggerated fears about risk mean that parents are more likely to try to run their children’s lives. With this ‘privatisation’ of family life, the social networks that can look out for children are diminishing. This only fuels parental fear.
Yet without a collective response, attempts to improve children’s quality will have limited effect. Children rely much more than adults on public goods and services such a clean air, transport and open space which cannot be provided by parents alone.
New research in the US has shown the link between ‘neighbourliness’ and children’s well-being. Although children are at the heart of many local communities, the privatisation of family life and an aging population with very different priorities mean they are becoming more disconnected.
Other People’s Children argues that children should be empowered to win back their public voice. As a first step, this book calls for a lowering of the voting age and the introduction of ‘baby ballots’ to give children and their families greater political clout.
By putting quality of life for children first, we have an opportunity to reconnect with shared values that are being lost to individualism. We should all be concerned about other people’s children.