What do children and young people need?

The paradox of the times we live in is that these factors do not in themselves change the essential nature of child development and the need of children and young people for positive attachments and protection. Frank Field (2010) a long-standing antipoverty campaigner has more recently shifted his concerns to what he observes as the poverty of child-parent relationships, and of ‘how the home life of a minority - but worryingly, a growing minority of children - fails to express an unconditional commitment to the successful nurturing of children’. Field emphasises the need for attention to the early years of development, establishing parenting courses and support for parents, as well as placing ‘parenting and life skills’ into the school curriculum.

The problem of competing discourses about what children need is further described by Tom Billington (2006), a psychologist specialising in education, child protection and social and communication disorders. He identifies what he describes as competing discourses about the child and young person who is simultaneously perceived as being in need of protection and support as well as adult instruction, control and even punishment. His statement that ‘frequently young people are now spoken of as if they were members of some kind of alien race from whom we have become totally disconnected...’, may resonate with many clinicians who are confronted with the anger and confusion that parents express when they bring their children for therapeutic help.

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