Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Unruly Youth in UK, Part 2
1 Evidence of Foreign Travel.
In recent years I have travelled to most parts of Europe -including Germany, France, Italy, Singapore and Australia- and note a qualitative difference in the way their youth behave. In all these countries, I have seen no binge drinking in city centres, no large groups of bored, disaffected youngsters and no evidence of anti-social behaviour. Of course my experience has been partial and touristic- France suffered from widespread youth disturbances in autumn 2004 for example- but nevertheless my experiences are mostly borne out by friends who have also travelled abroad. How about you?
In February this year Unicef published a report which showed Britain at the bottom of the league of wealthy countries for the conditions in which young people have to grow up.
Unicef's research - based on international polling of children and young people - showed British children were the most likely to feel left out, awkward and lonely. They were less likely to eat the main meal of the day with parents. Barely 40% of over-11s found their peers "kind and helpful", the worst score in the developed world. They suffer greater deprivation, worse relationships with their parents and are exposed to more risks from alcohol, drugs and unsafe sex than those of any other wealthy country in the world
3. Alcohol Addiction
Writing in The Observer Jasper Gerard claims that the relationship of young Brits to alcohol is desperately worrying.
The number of medical procedures carried out by the NHS for alcohol-related conditions such as liver disease have doubled in a decade, to 262,844 a year. The number taken to A&E with alcohol-related injuries has also doubled since 1997, to 148,477 a year. This includes 8,299 under-18s, a 40 per cent increase in three years. Did you know - I certainly didn't - that 22 per cent of 11-year-olds admit they have had a drink at some point? By 13, children who abstain are in a minority. Moreover, 30 per cent of the population are bingers and 15 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds are alcoholics. There are 367,000 violent attacks a year caused by alcohol. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, 60 per cent of binge-drinkers admitted to criminal or disorderly behaviour. Drinkers were five times more likely to fight and 13 per cent of those excluded from school were suspended for drinking.
So there we have it. Am I worrying unnecessarily? I wish. Why do we have such problems? I would suggest two major failings in British society which encourages such behaviour:
i)Attitudes to Family: Commenting on the Unicef report, Mary MacLeod, of the Family and Parenting Institute commented:
"Children do not seem to be as cherished and loved by society as a whole as they are in other countries. We bombard them with negative messages and the tyranny of 'cool'. We take away their playgrounds and playing fields, blame them for so many of the problems of our society and then wonder why they are unhappy and have such poverty of wellbeing and ambition."
ii) Poverty: As the home of the industrial revolution we have never solved the problem of the resultant massive lumpen proletariat who suffer from poor living conditions and even poorer expectations. Middle class families which fall upon hard times are buttressed by a supportive family and, usually, tolerable living conditions. Subtract those two supports and even the most secure family units would begin to wobble, so is it any real surprise that the children of so many poor working class families encounter acute problems? This article provides some interesting support for this argument:
Being poor will not in itself make you more likely to murder another person of your own age, but being poor, brutalised and unloved - or loved in a way that alternates neglect and indulgence - might.
I'll just do the first one. Visitors to Manchester rarely venture to the back streets of Cheetham Hill and Ordsall, the estates of Wythenshawe or even the English Rose (is it?) pub in Stockport where a man was recorded burning in a torched car. Tourists see nothing. Anecdotes (and indeed cluster studies vide Lancet) are very low confidence in terms of meaning. Stats show we have more of a problem. But not as much more as anecdotes and the French riots are an excellent example of that. They even have riots and mayhem in Switzerland. And as it used to say in the rank bogs at Zermatt Bahnhof "Switzerland is a Business NOT a Country" ...
Actually it was The Moss Rose, which was almost certainly the ugliest pub in the northwest. I remember that case well as it concerned Stockport gangsters and a guy locked in their car boot. He kept on ringing police on his mobile and they kept on asking him the number of the car and make of the car he was locked in the boot of. I'm well aware other countries have problems but I'm suggesting their problems are of a different order from ours.
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