Jen Lexmond, Richard Reeves
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Character counts. The endeavors that make up a good life - developing caring, positive relationships; learning and educating ourselves; planning for the future - are underpinned by character capabilities such as empathy, application and emotional control.  Far from being 'soft' skills, the capabilities that make up our character are vital for social mobility.


We shape and strengthen our character throughout life, but the critical years are the early ones.  Parents, then, are the primary character builders in society.


Parents who combine warmth and consistency - a style described in this report as 'tough love' - are the most successful in developing character capabilities in their children.  But this kind of parenting is unevenly distributed across society and parents with low levels of confidence, support or income are less likely to use this approach.  Moreover, recent social and economic change has put a premium on character capabilities; they are more important than ever before to success.


There are limits to state intervention in this area.  But to the extent that character impacts on equality, opportunity and fairness, it ought to be a concern for policymakers.  A range of policy interventions is proposed: a reformed Sure Start scheme; a 'NICE' agency to assess the effectiveness of parenting interventions; and new roles for health visitors to make sure that young children get a fair start, right from the beginning.