I’d like to be a dancer or a doctor, but I won’t

It’s OK to punch a woman in the face if she’s having an affair according to children interviewed by Nancy Lombard of Edinburgh Napier University as part of a study on children’s attitudes to violence against women.

Dr Lombard’s research included questionnaires and in-depth interviews with 89 pupils aged 11 to 12 years old at schools in Glasgow.

Most of the children thought it was wrong to be violent, but also agreed that if a wife didn’t have the dinner ready it might be acceptable to push her. Only 20% suggested the husband could have made it himself.

Violence is the main focus of the study, to be presented today at a conference organised by Scottish Women’s Aid, but it also gives some indications as to how the children see their prospects.

“At the moment I want to be a dancer or a doctor. When I grow up I’m going to have two babies and work part-time in the shop down the road” said one girl.

The fact that at 11 or 12 years old she already thinks that moving up the social ladder is only a dream is sad. The fact that she lives in the UK means she has less chance of escaping from a dead-end job than a child from a similar socio-economic background in other countries.

It is easier to climb the social ladder and earn more than your parents in the Nordic countries, Australia and Canada than in France, Italy, Britain and the United States, according to a new OECD study, Intergenerational Social Mobility: a family affair?

The study finds, as you’d expect, that there is a “virtuous circle” in which the children of better educated parents in higher earning jobs do well.

It also finds that increasing the social mix within schools appears to boost the performance of disadvantaged students without any apparent negative effects on overall performance.

Segregating pupils too early on the basis of academic ability undermines social mobility. By delaying selection until age 16 instead of 10 as is currently the case in some countries, the influence of the school socio-economic environment on academic performance could be reduced by as much as two-thirds.

The study also finds that social mobility between generations tends to be lower in more unequal societies. Tax and benefit policies aimed at providing income support or access to education may reduce the handicaps of a poorer or less well educated background.

Like father, like son? The higher the bar, the more likely are a son’s earnings to reflect his father’s


Useful links

Chapter 3 of the OECD Insights on Human Capital discusses children and families 

OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs

OECD Directorate for Education