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Report reveals tens of thousands of teenagers are neglected at home

Posted on 30 November 2016

Researchers from the University of York have contributed to a major new report which reveals that tens of thousands of teenagers across England are suffering neglect at home.

Huge numbers of teenagers are not being offered crucial care, protection and emotional support and are more likely to report getting drunk, truanting and smoking.

The report, Troubled Teens – part of The Children’s Society’s comprehensive new nationwide research programme – lifts the lid on the shocking scale of teenage neglect as reported by young people themselves. The findings show that, on average, the equivalent of three Year 10 pupils in every classroom report some form of parental neglect.

The charity argues that teenagers are often wrongly seen as needing less care and support than younger children. It is calling for a step change in the way the parenting of teenagers is viewed and wants better support and advice for parents too often struggling with the challenges of bringing up teenagers.

Troubling statistics

Researchers surveyed the level of care 14 and 15 year olds in Year 10 received from their parents. It found that one in seven (15 percent) reported some form of neglect. They described experiences with parents or carers who failed to monitor their activities outside the home or make sure they got adequate health care or took little interest in their education.

Vital emotional support was found to be lacking for many 14 and 15 year olds, with one in twelve (8 percent) Year 10 pupils saying that their parents had rarely or never encouraged them, or helped if they had problems during the past year.

The report revealed that neglected teenagers are more likely to behave in ways that risk their physical health or future prospects. Nearly half (46%) of the teenagers who said they had experienced emotional neglect had got really drunk recently – more than twice as many as those whose parents gave them the emotional care they need. This group were also more than twice as likely to have truanted  and nearly three times as likely to have smoked.

Emotional health

Emotional health was at risk too.  Researchers asked teens about their well-being – how they felt about themselves and their lives - and uncovered a bleak picture, with neglected teenagers significantly more likely to be dissatisfied with their lives, pessimistic about their futures and lacking in confidence in their abilities. Children who reported frequent support from parents were more likely to have higher levels of well-being.

Very limited support and advice currently exists for families with teenage children. The Children’s Society wants the Government to provide parenting support focused on the needs of teenagers as part of its Life Chances Strategy.

Professor Mike Stein, Research Consultant to the Troubled Teens project from York’s Social Policy Research Unit, said: “This research is a timely reminder that many teenagers - as well as very young children - can suffer the negative consequences of parental neglect, in not receiving basic emotional and health care, in being poorly supervised, and having parents who show little interest in their education. The neglect of teenage neglect demands to be taken seriously by agencies, policy makers and practitioners.”

Further information:

  • An embargoed summary of Troubled Teens report is available via this link:
  • This research is the first output from a comprehensive new research programme on adolescent neglect that The Children’s Society is undertaking in partnership with the University of York to explore the scale of neglect faced by teenagers.
  • An online survey by the University of York of a representative sample of around 2,000 young people aged 12-15 in 72 schools asked them about their experiences of being cared for by their parents. They told us how often their parents did particular things as part of looking after them – things related to educational support, emotional support, physical care and supervision. There were also questions in the survey about well-being (how happy a young person was with their life; how optimistic they were about the future), and the older group – 14-15 year olds in Year 10 – were asked about issues like drinking alcohol, truanting from school and their health.
  • Neglect of teenagers can include parents failing to monitor their child’s activities outside the home, not making sure they get health care when they need it, not taking an interest in their education, or failing to provide the crucial emotional support teenagers need by helping them if they are facing problems or if they are upset.
  • The Children’s Society is a national charity that runs local services, helping children and young people when they are at their most vulnerable, and have nowhere left to turn. We also campaign for changes to laws affecting children and young people, to stop the mistakes of the past being repeated in the future. Our supporters around the country fund our services and join our campaigns to show children and young people they are on their side.

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