T Nation

When Did the Brits Turn Into Pussies?


Countryside ban for children because mums cannot read maps and hate mud

Middle class parents are too afraid to take their children rambling because they struggle to map read and are reluctant to let them get muddy, a new study suggests.

By Julie Henry
Published: 9:00PM GMT 20 Feb 2010

The countryside is off-limits because it is out of the comfort zone of many affluent, suburban parents, according to researchers.

A lack of map reading skills was one barrier, while fear of their children being hurt, running-off or getting dirty was also cited.

As a result most parents limited their excursions to country parks and farms that catered for families.

The Hertfordshire University research carried out at a prep school in the south of England found that while children were open to the idea of rambling, their mothers were not confident in the great outdoors.

Debbie Pearlman Hougie, a senior lecturer in rural geography at the university, said: "None of the mothers I spoke to could read a map.

"I put a 1:25,000 Ordinance Survey map on the table and they didn't know where to start, they also didn't know anything about rights of way.

"There were stories of families who had gone for a walk and ended up on someone's land and got shouted at and never went back.

"They did not know how to make up circular walks or work out where it might be safe to go cycling with children."

The academic, who will present her findings to a Countryside Recreation Network conference this week, said middle-class mothers were also obsessed about injury and dirt.

"I think with this group of people, their fear of danger is exaggerated," she said. "They are very scared of children not only being run over, but being stolen even when they were with them.

"There also seems to be an obsession about cleanliness. Perhaps because children are in expensive clothes, mud seems to be abhorrent."

Ms Pearlman Hougie said parents had doubts about children's stamina levels and were worried that if they set out for a five mile walk, their children would give up half way round.

"Exposure to the countryside did not seem a priority," she said.

"At the same time children were not pestering their parents for kite flying or rambling, even though the older children were very aware that going walking was good for you and there was a definite desire to want to escape to exciting places where they could get lost."

The academic said it was important to focus research on middle class families because it was assumed that as they could afford to get to the countryside, they were more likely to be involved in out doors pursuits.

Poul Christensen, chairman of Natural England said: "Children are being denied the fundamental sense of independence and freedom in nature that their parents enjoyed.

"Our research shows that contact with nature has halved in a generation, and that the overwhelming majority of children now want more opportunities to play outdoors.

"Whether through pond dipping or tree climbing, nature-based activities can play an important role in the educational and social development of children.

"Society must question its priorities in providing safe open spaces for play â?? the money spent on parks and trees in this country is a fraction of that spent on the roads that cause parents safety concerns."

The new research comes amid growing evidence of children being cosseted by paranoid parents.

Figures released last week showed that the proportion of primary children walking to school has fallen to less than half, compared to 62 per cent in 1989.

Research in 1971 showed that 80 per cent of seven to eight-year-olds got to school on their own. By 1990, that had dropped to nine per cent.

Further evidence of a "risk averse" culture was revealed by a recent Royal Society for the Arts study which found that youngsters were being deprived of the freedom to develop, to manage and take risks â?? and, ultimately, to grow up.

Some of the blame for risk aversion was laid at the door of women, who, the report suggested, tend to mollycoddle children more than men.

Research in America has identified a "subculture of affluent suburbia" that found parents work commitments meant "family time" was limited. Youngsters spent much of their free time on computers or being shunted between various after-school activities.



I hate that! I grew up in Ohio and was allowed to wander as I wished. It was fun but more importantly, it was cheap! My Dad didn't have to buy me anything, just open the door and say be back at sunset.

My neighbor at one point was 14 years old and was not allowed to ride his bike on the road. I just watched this poor kid do 10 foot circles in his driveway when he's almost old enough to drive. :frowning: Some people need to buy a clue.


Ever since dubass american parents began leaving guns on the dining table, only for their three year old to pick it up and accidentally shoot themselves in the face.

Kidding. But you see what I'm saying.

You're right to an extent however - city parents (in my experience) are behaving like this a lot. I've known 20-somethings who are scared of cows since they haven't ever seen one before.

That said, people who live in the countryside love that mud. And are more than comfortable in their natural surrounds.


And middle-class parents don't behave like this in your country (or, indeed, every Western country)?


The middle class ride white horses to school while throwing pennies at the poor people.

True story.


I'm pretty sure it is universal human stupidity combined with irrational fears.


Al of modern Western society has become a culture of fear and laziness.

Parents don't let their kids go out unattended. It's a fear that is aggravated by the media in which crimes against children receive spectacular attention without being put into perspective. Granted, these crimes are heinous, but they are statistically rare when you crunch the data.

So, rather than keep a watchful eye or go outdoors and play with your kids, it's easier for parents to keep the kids inside, watching TV and playing computer games. And there's no dirty laundry to do.

It really gripes my ass when parents say they're too busy to go outdoors with their kids or spend more time with them. If your children are a priority (as they damn well should be), then make the time to raise them well, or don't have kids in the first place!


Mothers are overprotective and women can't read maps.

Well I never.


Ever since they lost the war.



Wow, some people got SHOUTED at, scary stuff...


And us Americans? Never mind reading a topo map and going hiking, most of us can't even find Iraq or Afghanistan on a world map. Do you think most middle class american's hike? Not where I live. The trails are pretty much empty 95% of the times I go.

We sue each other over the most frivolous bullshit. That's pretty pussy too if you ask me.


just what I was thinking


Where the fuck are the Dads in all this?

My dad had the "Nah, fuck that he'll be fine..." veto power in the house to anything my mom was worried about.

We can blame the mommies, but it's the dads who are allowing this to happen. If their kids are pussies it's the Dads' fault.


You know where all the dads are these days? Either dead(Rare),in prison(Once in awhile),or ran off(90% of the time). I cant tell you how many girlfriends I had that have daddies that have ran off on them or how many of my boys who grew up without a strong father figure. It seems that everybody is coming from a broken household.


Don't you think that 24/7 Cable news has some hand in this? Think about it. One kid gets abducted and we hear about it for weeks, months, even years. It gives the impression that there is a pervert hiding at every corner. Obviously when these things do happen, it's horrific, but the constant bombardment of televised images leads many parents to paranoia.


Doesn't surprise me and I agree it is not just UK. Here in Mexico and up there in the US things are exactly the same.

I was brought up by my Mum, she taught me to read an OS map and use a compass at a very young age. We used to go out on all day hikes from before I could walk, once I started walking, I would walk till I got tired then she would carry me.

My grand parents lived in the Forrest of Dean and we would be out all day in the forrest making camps with my cousins or whatever, only heading in for a bath and some dinner.

One thing I am certain of is that my kids will also know how to fend for themselves.


X2...you beat me to it. Nancy Grace on CNN is brutal.

Like others said earlier. I left the house at 6:00am to go fishing and came back at 8:00pm, pretty everyday in the summer. My boy helped dress a deer in my garage last summer and thanked me afterwards for giving him the opportunity to learn. He's a pretty cool cat. I have to admit that I am more protective than my old man ever was lol. My neighborhood has slipped over the years a little bit and thats why I'm a little more paranoid.


No offense to the Brits, but England is becoming a pretty messed up country.

They may have socialized medicine, but I remember seeing an infographic or some other intraweb diagram breaking the number of MRI machines by country and they have the fewest. Good luck getting one timely, if you ever really need one, but at least it will be free.

Also, the gun laws are screwy. There was an article of a former UK soldier who found a bag of guns somebody dumped in his yard. Now this guy was a combat veteran I believe, and he went and turned them in to the police. He ended up getting a long prison sentence. I'm not sure if he got reprieved or not, but he still had the hassle of defending himself for being a good citizen and I'm not sure he got the reprieve in the first place. A combat veteran, rotting in prison, for doing his duty as a good citizen.

Sad really, for a country w/ a proud history of being asskickers.




I guess I got lucky that I was raised by only my dad lol. There are a LOT of broken homes my generation, it's kind of sad in a way.