Choose Childhood

Our report highlights the intense pressures children and young people face today, and the urgent need for investment and support to stop problems reaching crisis point.

Read our executive summary

Since Action for Children was established 150 years ago, huge progress has been made to improve the lives of children. But there are worrying signs that some of this progress is being reversed.

In recent years, there has been an increase in children identified as at risk of harm, growing mental health needs among children and young people, and child poverty has increased. Yet at the same time, significant reductions in local authority budgets in England have led to cuts to vital early support services that help children and families before problems become more serious.


What we did

Working with YouGov, we conducted research with children, young people, parents and grandparents exploring what it’s like to grow up in the UK today. Alongside this, we worked with the Centre for Longitudinal Studies UCL to complete new analysis of the Millennium Cohort Study. The report highlights:

  • the intense social pressures young people face today
  • the urgent need for investment in support that helps children and young people face challenges
  • the need to provide support early, before problems reach crisis point.

What we found  

  • Most commonly grandparents (62%), parents (60%) and children (34%) say childhoods today are getting worse.
  • Young people say the top three barriers to a good childhood today are: “Being bullied” (61%), “Too much pressure from school” (60%) and “Too much pressure to fit in and look a certain way” (55%).
  • More than two-thirds of parents (67%) and more than half of grandparents (58%) think the government is investing too little in childhoods.

What needs to change?

We’re calling on the next Prime Minister to wake up to this growing crisis by establishing a National Childhood Strategy for the UK. We are urging them to invest in services to keep children safe and focus on early intervention, to give every child a safe and happy childhood.

Join our campaign


Our report for young people

We want to inspire young people to debate childhood today - and get them thinking about how they might make a change. Our young people’s report and discussion pack, for those aged 11-24, has been developed with the help of young people who use our services. It presents our key findings and looks at how childhood has changed in the past 150 years. 

Get the report   Get discussion pack