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A growing lack of adult authority has bred a 'spoilt generation' of children who believe grown-ups must earn their respect, a leading psychologist has warned.
The rise of the 'little emperor' spans the class divide and is fuelling ills from childhood obesity to teenage pregnancy, Aric Sigman's research shows.
Attempts to 'empower' children and a lack of discipline in the classroom have also fostered rising levels of violence, at home, at school and in the street.
Dr Sigman, a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, said nursery-age children are becoming increasingly violent and disrespectful towards their teachers, 'parent battering' is on the rise and the number of policemen attacked by children is soaring.
Dr Sigman said: 'Authority is a basic health requirement in children's lives.
'Children of the spoilt generation are used to having their demands met by their parents and others in authority, and that in turn makes them unprepared for the realities of adult life.
'This has consequences in every area of society, from the classroom to the workplace, the streets to the criminal courts and rehabilitation clinics. Being spoilt is now classless - from aristocracy to underclass, children are now spoilt in ways that go far beyond materialism.
'This is partly the result of an inability to distinguish between being authoritative versus authoritarian, leaving concepts such as authority and boundaries blurred.
'And the consequences are measurable - Britain now has the highest rates of child depression, child-on-child murder, underage pregnancy, obesity, violent and antisocial behaviour and pre-teen alcoholism since records began.'
For his report, The Spoilt Generation, he drew on 150 studies and reports, including official figures on crime and data on parenting strategies.
Taken together, they showed many of the problems blighting 'broken Britain' are linked to lack of discipline.
This is being exacerbated by misguided attempts to give children more control over their lives.
Dr Sigman says youngsters' inflated sense of their own importance is fuelling the obesity epidemic, because children feel they have the right to demand foods which would once have been given as occasional treats.
Some children thought to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder might simply have never learned how to behave, he suggests.
Calling for 'commonsense policies' to put children in their place, Dr Sigman said: 'There should be an absolute presumption both in law and in policy that adults "know better'' and are in the right unless there are exceptional reasons. Teachers' authority has been vastly weakened legally, professionally and culturally.
There should be a presumption that teachers "know better" and are in the right, unless it is shown otherwise.'
He also believes fathers should have more access to children following separation or divorce. 'Separated fathers must be legally recognised as being of paramount importance,' he said.
His views were echoed by experts in health and childcare.
Michele Elliott, of the children's charity Kidscape, said: 'Children no longer have boundaries. It's bad for children and it's bad for parents. Some parents, due to a lack of time, pressures at work and so forth, are trying to buy their children's love, which is toxic.
'They feel guilty for not being around as often so when their children ask for things they simply say "yes" to compensate.'
Professor Cary Cooper, head of psychology and health at Lancaster University, said long workinghours had taken a terrible toll on families.
'As a result parents cannot invest the time in their kids that they should.
'With their parents out to work all the time the children are turning to their peer groups to provide them with the family they need. We have been more concerned with becoming an affluent, successful country at the expense of investing in our family and our children.'
Tim Loughton, Tory children's spokesman, said: 'We believe that parents should be taking a greater responsibility for their children and that teachers and other figures in authority should be able to exercise their powers when the parameters are broken.'
He said the Conservatives were devising a National Citizens' Service for all 16-year- olds, giving them the chance to go on a summer challenge involving outward bound, team building and community engagement work.
A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokesman said: 'It's pathetic to knock a whole generation of young people through sweeping generalisations.
'The vast majority of young people play positive roles in their communities, do well at school and are a credit to their families and themselves.
'Parents, not politicians, bring up children. We've given police and teachers the tough powers they've asked for to deal with anti-social behaviour, criminal activity and poor discipline by the small minority.
'We help parents that need the most support through Family Intervention Partnerships. Standards have never been higher in school and there has been massive investment in youth facilities and activities outside the classroom. Teenage conceptions are falling and fewer young people are drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
'Ministers are clear that this should be the best country in the world for children to live - but we know there is more to do and have never made any bones about it.'
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