Comparing UK Parenting Priorities: Insights from Data on Good Manners, Obedience, and Unselfishness across Countries

A recent study conducted by the Policy Institute at King’s College London reveals shifting attitudes towards parenting in the UK. The study finds that the importance placed on obedience and responsibility in children by the UK public has significantly declined over the years, ranking among the lowest internationally. Conversely, the importance of qualities such as unselfishness, good manners, and imagination has risen, with the UK now ranking among the highest in valuing these traits.

Specific findings from the study include:

1. Obedience: The percentage of Britons considering obedience as an essential quality for children to learn at home has decreased dramatically since the late 1990s and now stands at just 12%. Only four countries rank lower in this regard.

2. Hard Work: There has been a substantial increase in the proportion of people who believe hard work is crucial for children, making it the fourth most important quality out of the 11 examined.

3. Good Manners: Despite a majority of Britons still considering good manners as vital for children (85%), this importance has declined compared to the past. However, the UK ranks sixth out of 24 countries for prioritizing good manners.

4. Unselfishness: Unselfishness is now seen as especially important by 43% of the UK public, ranking second internationally, just behind France.

5. Responsibility: While 46% of Britons view a sense of responsibility as crucial for children, the UK is the only Western country in the study where less than half the population holds this view.

6. Independence: A majority (53%) of the UK population values independence as an essential quality for children, placing the country in the top half of nations on this measure.

7. Changing Attitudes: Over time, Britons have shifted their priorities. Independence, hard work, determination, perseverance, and imagination have become more important, while obedience and unselfishness have declined in importance.

8. Generational Differences: Generation Z is less likely to consider tolerance, good manners, and obedience as essential qualities in children, but they prioritize independence more than other generations.

9. Duty to Have Children: Only 11% of UK residents believe it is a duty towards society to have children, ranking the UK 22nd out of 24 nations in agreement with this view.

10. Duty to Care for Parents: Around 31% of UK residents agree that adult children have a duty to provide long-term care for their parents, with only Sweden and Japan ranking lower in agreement.

11. Making Parents Proud: Approximately 79% of the UK population aims to make their parents proud, ranking 12th among 24 nations in this aspect.

12. Attitudes to Beating Children: The UK is the fourth most likely among 18 countries to say that it is not justifiable for parents to beat children. However, a small percentage still believes it may be justifiable.

Professor Bobby Duffy, Director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, suggests that these evolving attitudes reflect a shift towards valuing self-expression while still wanting children to be positive and productive contributors to society.

The study is based on data collected in 2022 as part of the World Values Survey, a comprehensive and internationally recognized social survey. The research provides valuable insights into changing parenting values and priorities in the UK and how they compare to other nations.

Source: King’s College London

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