Adding new insult to old injury

Whose side is the children’s minister on – the abuser or the abused?

Two very different events have brought sexual abuse into focus this week: the report of the suicide in custody of a sex abuse victim, Joseph Scholes; and the extraordinary letter in which Margaret Hodge described another victim, Demetrious Panton, as “an extremely disturbed person”.

Joseph’s tragic death is a vivid illustration of just why we need a minister attending to issues of protecting vulnerable children – a position which was created in June, and to which Margaret Hodge was promptly appointed.

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When love hurts

Men now want and expect more parental responsibility – but have they changed enough to handle it?

The death of four little boys killed by their father will be every separated woman’s nightmare. Those strong enough to read the details of how Keith Young drove his sons to a remote spot and poisoned them in his car will have been chilled. Not by how extreme Keith Young’s behaviour was – although it was – but by how much of the situation sounded like the ordinary stuff of a bitter divorce. Maybe they will be asking: is it ever safe to allow angry men to have sole contact with their children?

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As good as it gets

As national parents week gets underway, Ros Coward asks whether we ever really know if we’re doing it right

The British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott was the first to work with the idea of “the good-enough parent”. He illustrated its meaning by describing possible interactions between a mother, a baby on the point of crawling, and an interesting toy just out of the baby’s reach. The too-good mother can’t bear the baby’s frustration and immediately hands the toy to the baby. The not-good-enough mother leaves the baby too long with its frustrations. The good-enough mother allows the baby to explore its own capacities but not so long that frustration turns to despair.

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Exam fever

Results can be an unhealthy obsession, says Ros Coward – and not just for the kids

A few days ago an old acquaintance unexpectedly made contact. We had plenty to catch up on but within a couple of minutes, I found myself dragged into a conversation about children’s exam grades. Such exchanges are common among middle-class parents, but, with A level and GCSE results imminent, they are reaching hysteria pitch. Even so, I was aghast at the blatant way our dialogue was wrenched round to her daughters’ exam triumphs. Number one, an academic slow starter, was now expected to get straight As for her A levels. Daughter number two, by contrast always a workaholic, will not be satisfied with anything less than 10 As in her GCSEs.

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For much of the19th century, childhood was often short and brutish, and the young treated merely as small adults. And now? Continuing Weekend’s comprehensive review of our century, we look at the changing attitudes to life’s beginners

Is there a history of childhood in the 20th century? The lives of children have, after all, been as socially and psychologically varied as those of their parents. Yet some changes have completely transformed expectations for the early years of life. Indeed, childhood as we understand it was invented this century. Now, we view childhood as a prolonged and protected phase with considerable rights and consumer powers.

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