The government must do more to help parents in disadvantaged communities protect their children from risks, a new report finds this week.
It reveals that parents living in areas of low income, drug misuse and high unemployment are “tenacious” in protecting their children, challenging the common perception that they lack parenting skills.
Also, children living in deprived communities are often adept at protecting themselves and staying out of trouble, says Professor Malcolm Hill, director of the Glasgow Centre for the Child and Society, who led the research.
Produced for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation it finds that parents showed a high degree of creativity and skill at managing budgets to protect children from the effects of low income.
It also says that while parents often had high aspirations for their children, they lacked the knowledge and resources to realise them.
Peter Seaman, co-author of the report, says: “Parenting has been prominent in many government policies, including initiatives to tackle crime, and there is a widespread view that antisocial and delinquent behaviour by young people can simply be blamed on ‘bad’ parenting.
“Yet the parents we interviewed described sophisticated strategies they had adopted to minimise their children’s exposure to danger and to guard them against temptations to ‘go off the rails’.”
The report, which focuses on the perspectives of families in four disadvantaged areas in and around Glasgow, finds that parents and children coped with a wide range of local risks.
It also finds that residents “usually felt good” about some aspects of the places they lived in, commonly “trusted and protected” networks of relatives, neighbours and peers.
While most parents and young people saw school as a “haven” from risks, parents said schools were not involving them enough in issues concerning their children.
The report finds that parents employed “open and democratic” parenting skills, with many often going to “considerable trouble” to arrange organised activities for their children that were seen to be safer than unstructured leisure.
Young people moved in gangs for safety, though this could be perceived as threatening by adults or other children.
“We were impressed by the positive part that young people’s peer groups played in helping hem to stay safe,” says Hill.
“Parents were generally unaware of its importance and young people themselves recognised that sticking together in groups could, in spite of their self-protective intentions, appear threatening to some adults.”
He adds: ” Both parents and children in these deprived neighbourhoods were keenly aware of risks within their communities and the young people had often become experts in avoiding potential trouble.
Range of strategies
“They knew about avoiding people, places and certain times of day, and they deployed a range of other strategies, including keeping a low profile or asking friends or parents to accompany them in order to keep safe.”
The report recommends the development of policies “consistent with the many strengths and aspirations” of parents and children in disadvantaged areas, as well as tackling some of the risk factors including gang activity and drug and alcohol misuse.
It also recommends the development of informal networks for parents and children to share information about safe activities and get practical support and advice.
The report calls for a challenge to “over-simple assumptions” that disadvantaged areas have a negative culture of parenting and antisocial activity by young people, better involvement of schools and provision of low-cost leisure facilities.
Read a summary of
Parenting and children’s resilience in disadvantaged communities