Antisocial behaviour in childhood is a reliable predictor for distressed individuals who under-achieve, and are more likely to suffer addiction, crime and ill health.
A baby’s early experiences shape the brain development that is the foundation for future learning, behaviour, and health. It begins in the womb. An infant needs to develop empathy and trust to function properly. That happens when the parent or primary caregiver responds in warm, stimulating, and consistent ways. If that does not happen, the child’s development, their ‘attachment’, is damaged, and the consequences can be severe.
New parents are under tremendous pressure, and if they are also dealing with poverty, mental health problems of their own such as post-natal depression, or difficult home lives the stresses are aggravated.
We recognise that parenting is the hardest job in the world, and we want government policy to reflect that. There are good economic grounds for doing so: by the age of 28, a person who behaved in antisocial ways as a child will have cost society ten times more than someone who did not. (On average £70,019 as compared to £7,423 spent on someone with no identifiable problems).
Studies show that about 60% of children enjoy secure attachment. But that means that 40% of children do not. There are many ways that have been shown to work in supporting parents to raise happier, healthier children. Sure Start Children’s Centres, and the Family Nurse Partnership programme for example. That work needs to be extended.
Everyone should have parenting education so their children can develop healthy attachment. Every parent should have access to the advice and support to enable them to maintain good health, good relationships at home, and their children’s wellbeing. And every parent should know how to access that support.
This early intervention requires a long-term approach. The CYPMHC calls on all political parties, local government and statutory agencies to sign up to the principle that prevention is far more effective than cure, both in terms of financial savings and in creating a healthy society.