Where is the best place to grow up and why? We can easily become biased and unwaveringly think the U. S. , but what do we really know about different countries and their cultures, or how they affect us developmentally? There are many factors to take into consideration such as life expectancy, standard of living, and education. That is why Sweden is ranked number one on the Children’s Index ranking, making the country the best place to grow up! Children in Sweden are among the few in the world who are safe from abuse as they are well protected by the law from slapping, smacking, pinching, hair-pulling, whipping, or any form of abuse.
It is considered a criminal offense to beat a child. By comparison, in the United States alone, by the time a child is 2 years old, nine in ten parents have engaged in some sort of abuse and more than half of parents have slapped or pked their children and one-third of parents have pushed, grabbed or shoved their children (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2011). These forms of abuse have a great impact on children as abused children show a high incidence of personal and social problems, low performance levels in school and low self-esteem.
Typically, abused children are less attached to their parents, less intimate with friends, tend to withdraw and have the tendencies to become more aggressive and angry (Moylan et al. , 2010). Later on, they are at a greater risk for delinquency, risky sexual behavior and substance abuse (Sousa et al. , 2011). Swedish law ensures that children are protected and their rights are defended. These laws help to minimize and decrease the number of abused children, protecting them not only physically, but mentally and developmentally. Sweden uses some of its tax money to make sure children are looked after properly.
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As with most families, both parents work and children are in day care. In Sweden, day care is free and each set of parents receive 480 days of paid parental leave per child to stay home with their children until the age of 8! This offers a two- fold advantage for both parents and children. Studies have reported several positive aspects of day care. Some studies show that children in day care are more social, tend to share their toys, display self-confidence and are more outgoing. Results also conclude that children in day care score higher in cognitive skills than those who are at home.(Belsky et al. ,2007).
There are some limitations within these case studies but the fact remains that many families need to place their children in day care which can be very costly. Providing paid parental leave also gives parents the opportunity to stay home with their children to continue the emotional bond while establishing secure attachment. Most parental leave is taken by mothers, but fathers are spending an increasing amount of time at home with their children. The more sensitive the father is to the child, the stronger the attachment. (Lucassen et al. , 2011).
From preschool onwards, children are encouraged to think independently and the Swedish tradition of preschool emphasizes the importance of play in a child’s development and learning. At preschool the emphasis is on play. In many countries, including the US and the UK, there is a drive towards setting goals and assessing the progress of preschoolers but the Swedish system focuses more on basic values such as playing together and consideration for others. Play helps children develop motor skills and coordination. It also contributes to social development as children learn to share, take turns, and begin to engage in creative play.
Piaget identified different kinds of play, characterized by cognitive complexity to include functional play, symbolic play, constructive play, and formal games (Rathus, 162). The preschool in Sweden not only holds to play in education but also to fantasy and creativity. The quality of pretend play is connected with preschoolers’ academic performance later on, and their social skills (Russ, 2006 Stagnitti st al. , 2000). Exercise is vital to a child’s development and reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Physically active children have a better self- esteem and coping mechanisms yet most children in the U. S. are not physically fit. Keeping fit and enjoying the great outdoors are very much part of Swedish culture and schools shut for a week’s “sports vacation” in February each year, when many families head north to ski as children play outside at every opportunity, even in the depths of winter. Children being protect, enjoying good health, free education, and an active social life contribute to Sweden finishing first in The Children’s’ Well- Being Index and convince me that Sweden is the best place to grow up.
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