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Parents should get more help to bond with their child, says report

21 MAR 2014

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Health services and children‘s centres need to quickly identify and offer support to parents who are failing to bond with their children in order to head off serious educational and social problems in later life, a new report by the Sutton Trust says.

The review concludes there is overwhelming evidence that the bond between parent and child from birth to the age of three becomes even more crucial to a child’s development when added to poverty and other disadvantages.

“Better bonding between parents and babies could lead to more social mobility, as there is such a clear link to education, behaviour and future employment,” said Conor Ryan, the trust’s director of research.

While previous research has found that 40% of all children had insecure or unhappy relationships with their parents, the report finds it is a subset of that group who are likely to need targeted intervention. Research conducted internationally identifies 15% who are likely to develop more severe behavioural issues that may affect their future prospects.

“If you are a middle class child and you have an insecure attachment to your parents, that’s unlikely to cause you problems in later life. It could cause you relationship problems or social and emotional problems, but it’s less likely to make you drop out of school,” said Sophie Moullin of Princeton University, one of the report’s authors. “What attachment does, if you are disadvantaged, is to protect you more from that disadvantage. For example, for boys who have grown up in poverty, if they have a secure attachment they are two and a half times less likely to go on and develop behavioural problems at school.”

The report recommends that parents at risk of failing to bond with their children should receive help in the form of programmes promoting good parenting skills, using trained therapists, group sessions and video interaction. Those most at risk should receive more intensive assistance, including home visits.

The figure of 15% who may develop more severe behavioural issues is close to that of the 14% of young people in England who are classified as Neets (not in education, employment or training).

“It’s not like a necessary and sufficient condition that if you have an insecure attachment that you will definitely become Neet. What we do know, from US studies, is that when you look at those people who are poor and have a secure attachment, we can say that with some accuracy that they would be unlikely to drop out of school,” said Moullin.

 

Read full article: The Guardian