“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt
“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The most recent UNICEF UK campaign brings us into the startlingly horrifying reality of the epidemic of violence that children in our world are growing up in. In my recent studies I have been researching and evaluating the significant influence that the environment and conditions in which a child is growing up, outside of their immediate family setting, can have on a child’s learning and development. The community in which I work falls within the most deprived 5-10% of areas in Scotland, with statistics for Health and Crime Deprivation placing it within the 0-5% most deprived. 30.2% of children on the local school roll are entitled to and registered for free meals and 34.4% are in receipt of clothing grants. These proxy measures for poverty indicate that around a third of the children in the area are living in some level of poverty. According to UNICEF, there is consistent evidence that children who grow up in poverty are more vulnerable and that, despite statistics, the reality could be that there are many more children ‘hidden’ while living in relative poverty due to acute material deprivation caused by misuse of income by their family.
Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Framework purports the theory that a child’s development should be regarded within the context of the system of relationships that form his or her environment. Bronfenbrenner’s theory defines different layers of environment, each having an effect on a child’s development. The microsystem is the system closest to the child, their immediate surroundings and relationships including immediate family, school or childcare, and the family’s religion. The elements that make up the child’s microsystem can be seen as having bi-directional influences on each other, known as the mesosystem. Outside of these initial systems there are further layers making up the environment of the child. The exosystem looks at the larger social system in which the child is found, including the parent’s workplace, community-based family resources, extended family and friends, and also mass media. Finally, the macrosystem accounts for the broader ideology of the society in which the child is brought up, including cultural values, customs and laws. According to Bronfenbrenner’s theory, the effects or breakdown of systems within any layer have a cascading influence throughout the interactions of all other layers. Equally, if the relationships in the microsystem breakdown, this can result in the child not having the tools to successfully explore other wider parts of his or her environment.
These earliest experiences are crucial to the future of children and, for many children around the world, there is no light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Watch the video and consider how we can give these children hope….