Family and Relationship

Parents shower offspring with gifts to make up for lack of quality care

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Parents may buy more gadgets, toys and clothes for their children to compensate for working longer and not spending enough time with their families, according to a new report by children’s charity Unicef UK.

The report also found that parents may feel pressurised into buying expensive brands for their children to ensure they were not bullied by their peers, even if this meant families getting into debt to buy them.

The charity found that happiness for children meant spending time with their families in a stable environment – and also having plenty to do, including outdoor activities.

Computers and TVs in the home acted as “distractions” from family life, the researchers found.

Unicef UK says that some of the underlying causes of the recent riots might be explained by a materialistic culture replacing time spent with the family – with parents feeling pressured into buying branded goods to compensate for missing family time.

The research was based on a study of 250 children from the UK, Spain and Sweden.

There was less pressure to buy branded goods among families in Spain and Sweden, the researchers found, because family time was more of a priority in those countries.

However, in the UK – and especially in low-income families – the need to buy material goods increased and parents felt “pressurised” into spending money on new items for their children.

Author of the report Dr Agnes Nairn said “brand bullying” was more prevalent in the UK, with parents feeling more “helpless” and unable to resist buying branded goods for their children.

Unicef UK is calling for TV advertising aimed at the under-12s to be banned by the government – Sweden currently bans all such advertising.

Executive director for Unicef UK, David Bull, said:
“Right now politicians are grappling with the aftermath of the riots and what they say about our society, culture and families.

“The research findings provide important insights into the pressures children and their families are facing – and may speak to some of the underlying issues relating to the disturbances.”

A 14-year-old questioned by researchers said: “You could live in a dustbin and as long as you have an iPod, a Blackberry, then you’re accepted.”

Unicef UK is calling for parents to work less and spend more time with their families – and is also warning against local playgrounds and other leisure facilities being closed.

Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said the government shared Unicef UK’s concerns about family life in Britain.

“We are clear this needs to be tackled and are currently working with businesses and regulators to implement the recommendations from Reg Bailey’s review on commercialisation and sexualisation of children,” she said.

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