A generation of children is set for a life of crime and poverty by the time they are three years old, with family breakdown a major cause, a new report warns.
The Social Justice Commission, led by Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith, revealed that children from dysfunctional homes already lag behind their peers by the time they begin nursery school.
Mr Duncan Smith said: “Once they are behind their peer group, it is very difficult to rescue them and they are likely to end up involved in crime or drugs.”
“The life outcomes for these children are virtually set in stone by the time they are three,” he added.
The study confirms scientific research which shows that the ’emotional brain’, which determines how an infant relates to others, is largely formed in the first eighteen months.
If children are born into a home where they are nurtured and stimulated their brain is well-prepared for the next phase of their education.
However, children from maladjusted homes arrive at school with underdeveloped social skills. According to Mr Duncan Smith, “they will be unable to conceive of the idea of sharing or socialising with other children”.
In some parts of the country the Social Justice Commission found six in every ten families was headed by a single parent. These areas were also characterised by high youth unemployment and succeeding generations dependent on welfare benefits.
The Commission’s report also recommended policies to counter these alarming trends. These included introducing tax breaks to support marriage.