Kids need warm committed parents more than state handouts and the sexualisation of our children has “gone way too far”, Tory leader David Cameron says.
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Mr Cameron asserted that it was warmth not wealth that determined a child’s best outcomes and hailed a new era of responsibility and emphasis on developing character and good parenting.
He also slammed advertisers and shops for treating children like adults and pledged to clampdown on the “premature sexualisation of children” and “excessive commercialisation”.
The Tory leader made his comments earlier this week at an event held by left leaning think-tank Demos.
In his speech he cited the think-tank’s research and said it showed that if children had competent and committed parents, their financial circumstances made no “statistically significant” difference to the child’s prospects.
“What matters most to a child’s life chances is not the wealth of their upbringing but the warmth of their parenting”, he stated.
Appearing alongside Mr Cameron on the platform was Labour MP and former social security minister Frank Field.
Though Mr Field insisted he was not there to endorse the Tory position, he warned the Labour leadership that “more of the same” would not help the problem in parenting.
Mr Cameron also called on businesses to take corporate responsibility for the messages they send out to children.
He warned businesses and advertisers that unless they stopped sexualising children they risked being regulated.
He said: “Children today are being sold the idea that the path to happiness lies through excessive consumption.
“It’s high time the children’s market and advertisers show much more restraint in the way they operate”, he said.
“We don’t want to resort to regulation. But if business doesn’t exercise some corporate responsibility, we will not be afraid to impose it.
“The premature sexualisation of our children has already gone way too far. There is way too much arbitrary violence in the lives of children too young to understand irony or fantasy.
“Businesses have got to understand that parents don’t like it and want it to stop.”
Mr Cameron also repeated his promise to recognise marriage and civil partnerships in the tax system.
Yet he admitted that a tax break for marriage or reform of the benefits system will not stop family breakdown in its tracks overnight.
But, he affirmed: “These changes are about the message, more than the money. The message they send is that our society values commitment.
“But this is just the start of the support we’ll offer families. Families need help to spend more time together. So we’ll extend the right to request flexible working to all parents with a child under 18.”
Mr Cameron went on to say: “Of course there’s a link between material poverty and poor life chances, but the full picture is that that link also runs through the style of parenting that children in poor households receive.
“Because the research shows that while the style of responsible parenting I’ve spoken about today is more likely to occur in wealthier households, children in poor households who are raised with that style of parenting do just as well.
“And successful parenting style in wealthier families occurs not because these people are intrinsically better, or that they love their children more.
“It is because with poverty can come a host of other problems that make parenting more difficult.
“Worse schools, higher crime, bad housing. Unemployment. Problems with alcohol and drugs. Mental health conditions. The wearying grind of worry about debt.”
The major study cited by Mr Cameron, Building Character, was released by Demos last year and reported by The Christian Institute.
It concluded that children who receive ‘tough love’– a combination of warmth and discipline – from their parents have the best chance of doing well in life.
Researchers found that parenting style, not economic background, is the most important factor determining a child’s development of positive qualities such as self-control, empathy and determination.
It also discovered that children with married parents were twice as likely to show these key traits than children living with step-families or single parents.