Child psychologist Laverne Antrobus delves into the Horizon archive to find out how science has shaped our approach to parenting and education over the last 50 years.
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All parents want to give their children a great start in life.
But knowing how best to do that, or where to turn for advice,
isn't always so easy.
As a child psychologist, I meet with many fraught and anxious parents.
They come with many, many questions. They want to know:
Can a problem child really be changed?
How should they be managing their child's misbehaviour?
How can they help their child perform better at school?
At times like this, I think science should give me some of the answers.
But as a mum, I know that parenting is an inexact science.
like being in your own personal experiment,
with highs and lows, with lots of trial and error.
Yet children, what makes them tick and how best to manage them,
have increasingly become the subjects of scientific focus.
And for nearly 50 years,
Horizon has charted the latest thinking in child development
from psychologists, neuroscientists and educationalists.
It's documented an era of immense social change in Britain,
from the buttoned-up post-war years...
I really will smack you next time.
..to the modern age.
As we've moved from traditional families
to more single parents.
-From Victorian-style discipline...
..to hippy ideals.
Let the ideas flow into your mind.
And from a world of thrift
to one driven by consumerism.
Congratulations, you've earned 58.57.
To shower kids with love, or be super-strict...
That is not acceptable!
..each generation of parents has wondered
what experts can really tell them
when it comes to bringing up children.
The scientific study of little minds
and how they develop began in earnest in the post-war period.
Parents at the time were a tough breed,
shaped by the strict Victorian-style values of their own upbringing
and by the hardship and austerity of the war years.
These parents were all about hard discipline...
..wary of showing their children love for fear of spoiling them.
But research into families separated by the war
was to turn all that on its head.
By the '60s, psychologists were building
on studies into wartime orphans to explore just how vital
a mother's love was to a child's development.
In 1971, Horizon investigated this major new wave of thinking.
VOICEOVER: Human development is so complicated
that it's almost impossible to find cause and effect.
But there's an area now where scientists can be specific.
In all of us, there are two urges and they can be seen most clearly
when we're aged two.
There's attachment behaviour,
the innate urge that makes a child run back to its mother and keep close.
And there's the urge to explore, curiosity.
These two urges are in conflict
and their balance is different in each child.
Mothers complain if their child is too clinging,
or else always running off and getting lost.
The balance between these two urges in a child
has been found to depend on the mother's sensitivity to that child when a baby.
But what do the scientists mean by sensitivity?
The sensitive mother is someone who picks her baby up when it cries
and understands what it wants.
She seems to be in tune with baby's signals.
The insensitive mother
is someone who leaves the baby to cry for long periods
and seems to reject the baby as a person.
At the Johns Hopkins University,
they've been following a group of 23 mothers from their baby's birth,
going into their homes once a week to observe their sensitivity.
Joe has had a sensitive mother.
This is the strange situation room. There's your chair, here are the toys.
You can set the baby down on the floor.
Here is a card with instructions about when to leave the room.
If you will go to your chair and set the baby down on the floor,
we can begin the experiment.
Joe is being put into a situation which will grow
more and more strange.
The balance between his exploration and his attachment behaviour will be observed.
Every one of his movements,
each toy he touches, is recorded in detail.
Immediately, Joe has begun to explore.
He has the confidence to go exploring into the furthest corner
of the room. A child with an insensitive mother would be passive
and uninterested in the room.
Time for stranger.
Joe doesn't know how to take the stranger.
He's not seen her before and her silence is disturbing.
He's going to mother. The balance has been tipped to attachment.
Joe is learning from her reactions
whether the stranger is a threat to him.
For the insensitively mothered child, the stranger's entrance
led to a decrease in activity, but not a return to mother.
The next stage of the experiment is for stranger to play with him
and distract him while mother leaves the room.
Her instructions are to choose a moment
when Joe doesn't see her go and to leave her handbag behind.
With mother as a secure base behind him,
Joe will play with the stranger.
Now under severe stress, exploration dies.
He switches to heightened attachment behaviour.
He stays by mother's chair.
It's as close to her as he knows how to get.
The climax of the experiment was the quality of the reunion.
Joe shows nothing but a dramatic desire
to get to mother as quickly as possible and cling.
The insensitively mothered child
would have shown indifference to her departure and return.
This relationship between curiosity
and the support and affection the mother has given the child
is a recent theory developed by the man here at the Tavistock
who first drew the world's attention to the effects of maternal deprivation, Dr John Bowlby.
All we know is that if children, in the first two or three years,
get the kind of support and affection I'm referring to,
then, when they are three plus, they become increasingly confident
and able to make use of the world as they find it, a wider world.
And it's the ones who don't,
who are apprehensive and bothered and become dependent.
Bowlby's theory challenged the popular notion
that too much love would spoil a child.
He insisted that a loving and sensitive mother or father
was crucial to a child's self-confidence - an idea that would have a lasting impact.
Attachment theory, as it's known,
still forms the basis of our thinking
about how important it is for mother and baby to have a good bond.
But it also gave birth to the notion
that this ideal and ever-present mother
was something that we should all be striving for,
a pressure that's really hard for mums like me to live up to.
But most importantly, attachment theory suggested that when things went wrong with a child,
the person to look at was the mother.
During this era, scientists were trying to understand
why some children developed apparently abnormal behaviour.
One condition little understood at the time was autism.
Well, the first thing that happens
in any human encounter is that two people
look one another in the eye.
This happens first when a baby is about six weeks old,
and goes on for rest of his life.
Now, we noticed that this is the one thing autistic children don't do.
Here now are the main symptoms of autism.
The most striking one is a kind of alone-ness.
They avoid looking straight into people's eyes.
They seem preoccupied with something
and spend much time just gazing vacantly.
They also endlessly repeat gestures like these,
ignoring what's going on around them.
They may seem not to hear what's said to them.
They often don't respond to someone cuddling them or picking them up.
Language problems are a key symptom
and contribute to the impression of alone-ness.
So a general picture of inattention and non-communication is common with the autistic child.
Many experts at the time thought this type of disturbed behaviour
had a psychological rather than biological basis.
One group of psychologists,
led by the Austrian therapist Bruno Bettelheim,
reasoned that if mothers were cold or unloving,
they must somehow be to blame for their child's autism.
There was even a term for it - refrigerator mother theory.
In a series of controversial experiments,
psychologists at the New Orleans Primate Centre set out to test this idea
by depriving baby rhesus monkeys of a responsive mother.
This infant was removed from its mother at birth
and it's now 50 days old.
The object has thoroughly become, over this period, a security object.
If it's frightened or mildly upset, it goes to it and clings to it.
In this sense, it is a mother substitute
but a very limited kind of substitute.
When reared on a substitute mother, which remained stationery,
the babies were bound to develop the characteristic rocking motion
often found in autistic children.
Will the behaviour of this baby monkey give a clue
to the little-understood human baby condition?
A number of things have happened.
These animals on the stationary devices seem much more fearful.
For example, if I attempt to touch this animal...
..she avoids me.
Dr Mason, who is in charge of these experiments,
then tried giving other babies an identical mother substitute,
but one that moved mechanically at fixed intervals throughout the day.
This animal does not rock.
And what we didn't anticipate is she's must bolder
than the animal raised on the stationary surrogate.
Speaking loosely, one can say this animal is psychologically more normal?
Yes. In fact, one doesn't have to speak loosely. I think that's definitely the case.
These experiments seemed to confirm that an unresponsive mother
could trigger autistic-like behaviour in her offspring,
fuelling a culture where mothers of autistic children were often blamed for their problems.
Bruno Bettelheim would later distance himself from this theory.
But traumatised by his own wartime experience,
he believed emotionally-disturbed behaviour in children
was the result of a past trauma they'd suffered.
After the war, he dedicated his life
to helping problem children at a special school in Chicago.
In 1987, in one of the last interviews before his death,
Bettelheim spoke to Horizon about his work.
Bruno Bettelheim is one of the last surviving members of the psychoanalytical movement
to be trained in Vienna during the time of Sigmund Freud.
In 1938, he was imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps
and saw the personalities of otherwise normal prisoners disintegrate
under extreme stress into psychotic and schizophrenic behaviour.
Bettelheim's remarkable success has been attributed
to his uncanny ability to understand children's thinking.
He was able to enter their world and make sense of it.
Bettelheim's work was revolutionary.
He not only showed that children with behavioural problems could be helped,
he also encouraged the idea of listening to them
and seeing things from their point of view.
But his work was to herald increasing awareness that trauma often started within the family.
And that's where experts started to look for explanations,
not only of psychological damage, but of physical harm.
In the '70s, doctors came up with a new explanation
for why some babies with no visible injuries developed sudden brain damage.
They called it "shaken baby syndrome" and suggested parents were the culprits.
Now the state came under increasing pressure
to protect children from abuse within the family.
Hello, Social Services.
Taking the details of real cases, Horizon used drama to explore
why a mother would deliberately hurt her child.
I have to say that, looking at those injuries,
looking at those bruises and the broken arm,
it's pretty clear to me and to the other doctors that have had a look at her,
that those injuries have been inflicted on her.
Any possibility of anyone hurting her deliberately?
No, we don't hurt her.
Later, the mother admits to causing the injuries by shaking her baby.
Will you just sit down?
She and her husband are called in for a psychiatric assessment,
along with her parents.
-I thought it might be a good idea to meet.
-It's cos I'm shaking her.
It soon becomes clear that the mother of the battered baby is a victim of abuse herself.
I wonder who Andrew raises his hand at most when he gets angry?
Is it more at Matthew, is it more at you?
Who does Andrew raise his hand most to when he gets angry?
Matthew and me...
and he shouts and smashes things.
Does he smash you sometimes?
Uh-huh. And is that the same as your dad,
or differently from your dad, when he gets angry, when he drinks?
It's like me dad.
Like your dad. Is that right, Mrs Eastwood?
Increasing awareness of abuse passing down generations
turned the spotlight on mothers in a new way -
not just to blame them but to try and help them too.
By the '80s, the breakdown in traditional family life
was starting to take its toll.
Mums of this generation were more likely to be
the product of broken homes and troubled by an unstable upbringing.
With numbers on the child protection register spiralling,
the government looked for new ways to break the cycle of damage and abuse.
The answer lay in a new phenomenon - self-help.
In this area of south London alone, two small children
were beaten or starved to death
by their parents in the past two years.
The vast majority of battering or abusing parents
were themselves battered and abused as children.
Depression among mothers of preschool children
is worryingly common.
It's estimated that over a third are suffering from actual clinical depression
and it has serious consequences.
Research has proved that the children of depressed mothers
are likely to have trouble
learning to read when they get to school, and some have major behaviour problems.
Some mothers are now being offered the chance of a break
in the endless chain of depression and destruction
by a unique organisation called Newpin.
What used to depress me so much in health visiting
was how much destructive family patterns kept on repeating themselves,
and actually just talking through some of women who were
in my actual caseload as a health visitor, how much nothing had really changed
from what were, seemingly, generations of family behaviour.
So, you know, that they were going to be in the same locked state forever
was the most driving reason, I think. Was there a way of changing things?
Newpin brought mums together at a local support centre.
When I first came, I didn't realise I was depressed.
I was always getting uptight with the children.
At the time, I couldn't see it. I couldn't see that I was depressed.
The women were encouraged to take part in weekly group therapy.
It was difficult. Most of the time, I just sat quiet.
But then, once I got to know them a bit more, I opened up a bit more.
-Do you think you were getting things out of it, even if you didn't say anything?
It made me realise what other things people go through
and that I'm not the only one that went through them experiences.
That there was someone else here.
By working through their childhood problems,
Newpin helped these mothers relate more positively to their own kids.
I think I'm becoming a better parent to my children.
I've got some respect for myself, which I didn't used to have.
Personally, I feel much more aware of myself,
much more aware of the kids
and more able to cope with them.
And to understand them and see it from their point of view.
I understand my children better - Dean, especially, because he was, like, hyperactive.
He's not as bad as that now.
I think its cos I understand him more and I'm happier
that it's making him happier and we get on better.
Newpin proved to be a lifeline for many mothers wrestling with a traumatic past.
But it wasn't just dysfunctional families that needed help.
In the 1970s and '80s, the rise in new liberal ideas about discipline
left a lot of more ordinary families struggling to manage their children's naughty behaviour.
This generation was particularly keen to distance itself from the harshness of post-war ideas,
and smacking was particularly frowned upon.
So when a new idea arrived from the States called behavioural therapy, it caused quite a stir.
Pigeons can be taught to do very complicated things.
This bird was trained by first rewarding it with food
for small turns to the right, then for bigger turns, until finally he learned the trick.
HE GIVES INSTRUCTION, INAUDIBLY
Now psychiatrists in Britain are using methods very similar to that used on the pigeon,
to get children to be obedient.
Jonathan, I want you to put that jigsaw into that box.
The therapy you're about to see will make most British psychiatrists
and social workers hopping mad.
They think this kind of therapy is awful.
-Don't forget, praise.
-That's a good boy.
That's a good boy. You put your toys away, that's a good fellow. You're a good boy.
-Give him chocolate.
-Would you like a wee bit of chocolate for doing that?
-BOY: May I have bit?
-Yes, you may.
VOICEOVER: They don't think people should be trained like pigeons.
But you should judge for yourself.
In the UK, behaviour therapy is unpopular,
in spite of the fact that in America, it's widely used to help parents cope
with disobedient but otherwise normal children.
In Britain, such families get some form of
Freudian therapy, or family therapy or, more likely, tranquilisers.
Here in Belfast with Roger McAuley,
the American methods are being fitted into our National Health Service.
14 families, one after another, were asked if they would be in this film.
They said no - they didn't want neighbours to know they were getting psychiatric help.
The 15th and 16th were single-parent families, rather isolated,
and this is probably the reason they agreed.
Roger is treating one family in their home.
The mother was deserted when she was eight months pregnant
and her American husband shoved off back to the US.
After a succession of crummy flats in London, Deidre Engstrand
and Jonathan have come back to Belfast. She says that Jonathan
has been deprived of both a father and a proper home.
Now, use the nailbrush. Oh, no...
-I don't want the nailbrush.
-Come on, there, here.
So she's tried to compensate by never refusing him anything.
Now she has asked for help because Jonathan won't do anything he's told.
-Just wash your hands.
Trying to get him to have a bath, I mean, that's an unholy row.
To wash his hair's the same thing.
And, I mean, people comment on it, you know, the noise he makes.
No matter what it is, he fights it, from he wakens up in the morning, he fights.
-Leave it! Oh, no!
-Now, Johnathan, you let David play.
ROGER: Diedre, what should you do?
Roger asks her to use this routine to get obedience.
She's to instruct and, if obeyed, to give a reward.
If Jonathan doesn't comply, she's to ask a second time
and if he obeys, to reward him.
ROGER: The verbal content must be clear, "I want you to do something now."
There's no good in saying, "Don't you think it's time..."
That gives the child the opportunity to say, "Well, no."
I think I normally say, "I'd like you put your toys away now, please, son."
OK, do it the way I want you to do it.
Jonathan, I would like you to put your toys away.
Amazing, a vast difference!
VOICEOVER: If he still refuses, she's to punish with time out.
She's not to engage in any kind of argument.
ROGER: Go on, no more shouting. That's good.
You got it, nice and firm.
Out the door, boyo. Out the door. I told you to get off the door.
Now, sit there until you're quiet.
-Now, sit there until you're quiet.
-No, I cant sit there!
VOICEOVER: The time out punishment is not anything physical.
It has already been explained to Jonathan. He has to stand quietly in the corner for one minute.
The snag is the minute does not begin till he's calm and quiet.
It took 40 minutes for Jonathan to give in.
ROGER: OK, finish it. Tell him to come out.
Come on, that's a boy.
Do I praise him, Doctor?
Oh, God no. You say nothing. That's a punishment.
You must not make up to him for at last ten minutes after!
One for you. A knife and fork for you and a knife and fork for me.
A knife and fork for you and a knife and fork for me.
He'll help me clear the table and he'll get things for me, so that's a change.
At night, he'll wash himself without a fight, clean his teeth
and go to bed with his pyjamas and get ready for bed upstairs.
Had I not seen it working so rapidly,
I definitely would have scrubbed it.
You know, I would have thought
it was too brutal, for want of a better way of describing it.
It was like training, training a dog or an animal.
And for those reasons, you think, "What am I doing to my son?"
That's a fella.
It's hard to believe how controversial this behaviourist approach was 30 years ago.
But today, for therapists like myself, it forms the basis of the way
we work with children who've got very difficult behaviour.
-Pack it in!
These new ideas about discipline spread widely, spawning a wave of popular parenting shows
They don't listen to a word I say!
I need some help with disciplining them...
I don't want to!!
These offered expert tips on everyday problems like dealing with toddler tantrums...
Let's see if we can ignore the tantrum till it wears itself out.
And gave lessons in tough love...
It sounds pretty harsh, holding the door.
He's safe, you're not abusing him in any way.
It's a very short period of time.
..as well as reward tactics.
You didn't stay in your bed, so you don't get your treat.
But there would always be some who saw this kind of behaviourism as too soft.
Dr Ron Federici believes techniques like this
need to be radically intensified to help parents of children
with severe behavioural problems.
And where Bruno Betttelheim once prescribed love and empathy,
there's nothing soft or cuddly about these tactics.
So often families feel the best intervention they can give
is unconditional love, affection, patience, time and talking to the child.
That turns out to be the incorrect mode of dealing with the child.
What's most important is to start a programme to allow parents to take total charge
and structure, and organise, this child's thinking,
reasoning, behaviours and role within the family.
Adults become the strong role models and reparent the child all over again.
CHILD: That's what I said, I don't want this any more!
The Mortons want help with their 12-year-old son Sergei,
who they adopted from a Russian orphanage at the age of eight.
Sergei displays violent behaviour even towards his family
I'm just wasting my time doing this crap!
When we were coming home from a dinner one night, he attacked both his brothers,
tried to choke his younger brother, and even attacked his big sister.
How much more violent is he going to be than he is now
when he's stronger and bigger and maybe finds a gun some place?
It's really hard to answer what's in his mind.
He shows a lot of anger, a lot of contempt for people, a lot of hate.
Dr Federici is here to explain his training programme to the Mortons.
It's to last 30 days.
Rather than focusing on Sergei's damaged past,
Dr Federici emphasises a strict routine and parental control.
Sergei will have to stay within three foot of his parents
at all times and obey their every word.
Show me three feet?
Three feet means three feet. If I can not touch you, you're too far away.
Follow instructions right away.
"Serge, get up." The answer is, "Yes, sir, I will."
Your mom and dad are in charge of everything.
Meaning you have to ask for permission.
Excuse me, may I go to the bathroom? May I have a drink of water?
Excuse me, may I eat dinner? Excuse me, may I read a book?
The answer is no, unless your father says,
"Serge, you can read a book with me."
You can not do anything alone.
He cannot do anything alone. Because he likes to run away.
If he runs to his room, take the doors off.
From now on, Sergei's parents will sleep in the same room as him.
Serge, everything gets boxed up, taken, toys, everything off the wall
and we just have bed, pillow, Mom's bed, Dad's bed.
Very good. He likes to keep neat. Everything will be boxed up, OK?
Sergei will be allowed no personal possessions and no privacy.
Many families believe it may be inappropriate to take away
a child's identity, even if it's an inappropriate one.
But what's so important is to realise this is a superficial posture and the important thing
is to bring them back into the adult world
where adults become the strong role models and reparent the child
which is the starting point of a stronger and more solid attachment.
Only eyes, only eyes.
Echoing 1960's attachment theory,
Dr Federici believes problem behaviour in a child
can stem from the lack of a strong parental bond in the early years.
But he believes this attachment can be rebuilt by getting Sergei
to make close eye contact while being held by his parents.
This is better for him than being on his own. This is much more positive than fighting with you.
Whether it's called brainwashing or reprogramming
or practising, a rehearsal, which I tend to prefer, it's very appropriate
for a child like Sergei who has, literally, a blank slate of human emotions and feelings.
He's been devoid of many of these feelings and expressions for so long,
he has no clue how to do those unless it's taught and practised and rehearsed.
Dr Federici also has a technique for dealing with Sergei
when he's out of control - the hold position.
If you do anything violent, Mom and Dad will take you down to get you in control.
There will never be fights. If he tries, he goes down.
He goes down for hitting, kicking, spitting, cussing in your face,
screaming, breaking property, slamming doors. Where he's out of control, he must go down immediately.
-He's not being hurt.
-No, my toe is twisted!
-It still hurts!
-He may choose to make up all kinds of stories.
-It's not, I'm not making it up!
-He's very angry.
Dr Federici thinks Sergei will find this position reassuring.
His parents physical power will make him feel safe and secure.
Dr Federici has gained a widespread following
amongst desperate parents in the States,
but critics of this approach are concerned
about the damaging effects it could have on already vulnerable children.
Dr Federici defends his method.
Even in the most difficult situations,
where the child is written off as totally unattached
and irrecuperable, I believe very strongly that any child,
even that level of damage, by hard work and very unorthodox
and aggressive, innovative techniques,
will often bring that damaged child to an 80% solution with the family.
It can be hard to isolate the precise cause of behavioural problems in children like Sergei.
-Can you calm down just a little?
And in recent years, the impact of life experiences
versus biological causes has been the subject of much debate.
Where scientists once focused on upbringing -
for example, poor parenting or bad mothering -
to explain behaviour difficulties in children, more often than not,
they're looking to the brain for answers.
We now know that some extreme behaviours
can be explained by underlying neurological conditions
which are often triggered by a complex mix
of the environment the child's been bought up in
and its genetic make-up.
But drawing the line between a naughty child
and one with a genuine problem isn't easy.
Liam, come here!
In the last few decades, scientists have been developing
new diagnostic tools.
One disorder they can now identify and test for is ADHD,
or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
In 2005, Horizon went to find out what happened
when Jazmine and James Fisher, who both had problems
controlling their behaviour, were assessed for the condition.
What did you do that for?!
This is the Conners Rating Scale.
This is one of the methods of trying to diagnose ADHD.
You have one, twos and threes and you have to answer best.
You know, is this a little true, or is it pretty much true, very much true, or never at all.
And these sort of questions here relate to symptoms of ADHD.
I mean, Jazmine here scores a three for disturbing other children.
Only paying attention to things she's really interested in.
Has difficult in waiting her turn.
Interrupts or intrudes on others. Restless, always on the go.
A diagnosis of ADHD is based on extreme patterns of behaviour.
In particular, inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
Jazmine and James were both found to have the condition.
Why don't you go and play on your PlayStation?
YELLS: OK! Leave me alone, you bitch!
That's nice, thank you(!)
Tough discipline doesn't always work for parents of ADHD children.
I suppose a lot of parents, you know, if they were called a bitch
and so on, the hard line discipline would come out,
but it just doesn't work because he'll still do it anyway.
So I just try and ignore some of the behaviour.
Don't do that!
Jazmine, don't wind him up.
Scientists believe a lack of the brain chemical dopamine
makes it hard for children with ADHD to control their impulses.
With diagnosis comes medication to help control symptoms
in the form of Ritalin, a powerful stimulant drug.
It's almost like, when you have a light, yeah?
You can switch it on and off.
With my Ritalin, I can switch my brain on and off.
Like in my brain, my thoughts.
But when I'm not taking my Ritalin,
the light isn't working any more and stays on.
Scientists now think ADHD has a strong genetic component
and can often run in families.
Her children's diagnosis struck a chord with Charlotte,
who had problems with her behaviour as a child
and was thrown out of six schools.
I read this particular book, and I really...
I thought, "Oh, my God. I have just read my whole life in this book."
And I was quite shocked at how similar and...
You know, it was almost a bit weird,
how many things related to me and that's when I realised,
"This has been my problem my whole life."
But it's not just behaviour that can be affected by a brain disorder.
Neurological make-up can have a huge impact
on how children learn at school.
Where once kids were just labelled stupid or disruptive,
scientists have now identified
several learning disorders originating in the brain.
and the maths equivalent, dyscalculia.
David Baddiel went to find out just how hard learning can be
if your brain is wired differently.
What are these frightening hoses?
-What are they?
-These are stimulation coils.
That's going on my head?
One will go onto your head, yes, exactly.
David is having the areas of the brain
he uses for maths knocked out by a magnetic pulse.
-We hold the coil approximately here.
-It's not going to be...
-It's not a lobotomy.
-Tell me it's not a lobotomy.
-No, not at all.
A magnetic pulse just induces, very shortly,
electric chaos in this brain area.
-Yes. This is what you could... (LAUGHS)
Electric chaos in my brain.
Fine. I'll do it for Horizon, it's fine.
Just for a couple of milliseconds.
I'm not that desperate for work.
Then it'll be restored to normal.
OK. Well, on your head be it.
David is preparing to do a test,
typically used on dyscalculic children.
In David's case, the part of his brain
he'd use for maths is being disabled to mimic the disorder.
You have to decide if the number is smaller or larger than 65.
-And then press with your two hands.
David has to identify if the number is smaller or larger
by a click with his left or right finger.
You will be stimulated every time the number comes up on screen.
Children with dyscalculia would find this extremely difficult.
Hang on a sec, sorry. Can we start that again?
I completely forgot which side is which.
OK, it's left for smaller number, for smaller than 65,
and right for larger numbers.
As time goes on, David is feeling more and more disorientated.
-The smaller for the left hand side
-and higher for right hand side?
David's ability to respond to numbers is slowing down.
For genuine dyscalculics, it's much worse.
-The test you did, they'd be slow and inaccurate.
So something really simple
like which of these two numbers is bigger, is very diagnostic
as to whether you will have dyscalculia or not.
By repeating these experiments, Brian Butterworth has identified
differences between normal brains and those of dyscalculics.
-This is the area responsible for numeracy?
-This is a scan from eight-year-old kids.
And what they show is there's this area here,
in what's called the right intraparietal salcus,
and kids who are dyscalculic have an abnormality here.
Science is beginning to glimpse the extent
to which children's neurological make-up
can determine their ability to learn.
It helps explain why some children struggle where others flourish.
-What did you learn today?
-We learned about the Victorians.
We learned loads of maths.
But as with children's social and emotional development,
our scientific understanding of how children learn
has evolved over time.
In the post-war period,
Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget
came up with a radical idea.
That children are no less intelligent than adults,
they just think differently.
His theory motivated a series of experiments
into the cognitive powers of infants,
revealing their enormous capacity to interact with,
and learn from, the world around them.
In this experiment, even at this age,
he will construct a hypothesis, think about it and then verify it.
He's going to realise that by turning his head to the left,
he is the cause of the light coming on.
Eight years ago, research techniques were crude
and no-one had shown that infants under six months could learn.
But now, through experiments like this, it seems the human at birth
learns better than he ever will again.
Sooner or later, several of his accidental movements
may lead him to wonder if perhaps it is he
who is switching on the light.
When that idea dawns, there's a dramatic burst of activity
when he's certain that he's the one controlling the light.
Experiments like this suggested that children's intellectual capacities
are well established before they even get to school.
Again, the onus fell on mothers.
This time to encourage children's learning in the early years.
Piaget also suggested that all children
pass through four learning stages.
Up to the age of 11, they learn best through interaction
with objects before they can grasp more abstract concepts.
His theory was based both on observing children's behaviour
and talking to them - a novel idea at the time -
revealing that young children have their own unique logic.
Now, do we have as many green bricks, the same number,
as we have pennies?
Yes? Are you sure? How do you know?
Because there's one at each penny.
Right, watch what I'm going to do.
Linda's at one stage of her development.
She doesn't yet understand the meaning of number.
Do we have same number of bricks as pennies,
or do we have more green bricks or more pennies?
More bricks? How do you know?
Cos they're... They're...
That's longer than them.
-Which is longer?
The number of bricks and coins remains the same,
even though the visual arrangement is changed.
But at this stage, Linda only judges by visual appearance.
All children pass through this stage,
but vary in speed by as much as 18 months.
Such concepts as this, conservation of number,
cannot be taught effectively before the child is ready.
That is before she's assimilated enough to understand
the idea in concrete terms.
Piaget's ideas about how a child thinks and learns
were to have a huge influence on the teaching methods
used in primary schools.
Many adopted this more child-centred approach.
And in 1976, Horizon set out to investigate
this new liberal style of teaching, with its informal approach
and emphasis on learning through play.
And compared it to the traditional, structured form of school.
This is what's called an informal classroom.
It's not really one room.
It's several, all open to one another,
with no space wasted on corridors.
Classes share facilities and teachers work together.
At first glance, it looks like a chaotic playgroup,
although not quite as noisy.
Every child seems deeply involved.
It may look like play but they're learning maths.
-How many have we got left?
-One, two, three, four.
54? Now what are you going to build with them this time?
-Erm, I don't know.
-What would you like to build with them?
A different kind of castle.
All right, you make a different kind of castle.
The question is, despite all the obvious enjoyment,
are these children really learning enough?
In progressive schools, independence is encouraged.
Yes, of course you can go and play in the sand, Jimmy.
Ready? One, two, three.
THEY PLAY GUITARS
Music is only one small facet of progressive teaching.
It involves what's called the integrated day,
where classes aren't broken arbitrarily
into one hour of maths, English and so on.
Everything is carefully dovetailed
and music, art and science are often taught as a composite.
ORCHESTRAL MUSIC PLAYS
One or two ideas to think about.
I like the school very much.
I think they do an awful lot for the children
and they have an awful lot more freedom of choice.
The children get a chance to express themselves.
The atmosphere is so very good. The children are very happy.
They work very well.
At the other extreme, this school was equally commended to us
for excellence by its educational authority.
It's precisely two minutes to nine in the morning.
Look to the left, straighten your lines up. Straight down the lines
On the next whistle, you will turn.
HE BLOWS WHISTLE
Numbers 14 and 7, lead off.
This so-called formal, or traditional, primary school
is the sort of primary education
which probably most grown-ups watching
remember as their experience of school.
Classes are run on a strict timetable and all activity
is firmly teacher directed.
-Good. Nine fours?
Now, counting in sixes, starting from six. Ready?
ALL: Six, 12, 18, 24...
That's a good one!
Achievement and competition are positively encouraged.
High fliers are praised and the slower ones pushed.
That's a better one. Forward. That's a good one.
All schools should have an end product,
just like industry has an end product.
And I think the end product is to be able to read,
write and do arithmetic well,
to enable them to go into further education with a good start.
And I think this school does exactly that.
Horizon followed a team of educational psychologists
as they put the two approaches to test.
It was the first report of its kind
into primary teaching methods in the UK.
Now, my name is Mrs Wade and I'm here to do some research.
Who can tell me what research is?
Children in Lancashire and Cumbria were tested,
both at the beginning and end of the year, to find out not just how much
they liked their type of school, but how much they learnt in that time.
The biggest surprise was the discrepancy in achievement
between the progressive and formal classrooms.
Contrary to our expectations,
the findings clearly favoured formal schools.
You want to read it to me? All right, go on.
These results mean that over the three or four years
a child is in a progressive primary,
he could be held back by more than a year in some subjects.
The mass of data was computed by Lancaster University's
to see, among other things, whether some types of child personality
are better suited to specific styles of teaching.
High ability children in formal classrooms
progress considerably better than high ability children
in informal classrooms.
But another interesting finding was that low ability boys
in formal classrooms did much worse than low ability boys
in informal classrooms.
There are differences at the top and bottom
in terms of ability there.
Today, child-centred learning has been incorporated
into the mainstream.
Most schools now try to find a balance between structured lessons
and informal play.
But more progressive schooling has, like more liberal parenting,
sometimes led to discipline problems.
Just like parents, schools have turned
to behavioural techniques for help.
Rather than cracking down, teachers look for ways
to motivate children to behave better and work harder.
David Baddiel travelled to Washington,
to find out how one school in a deprived neighbourhood
incentivises children - who don't see the point in learning -
with hard cash.
Good morning, boys and girls.
ALL: Good morning, Miss Fox.
It's payday at Brightside School.
This morning, we're going to celebrate and acknowledge
who are the top ten highest earners
for each of our pay periods.
The first one, for pay period one,
is Francisco Tee. Come on up, Francisco.
Brightside is one of 28 American schools,
trying out financial incentives
as part of a privately funded educational experiment.
The children get money for top marks,
but also for good behaviour,
attendance and correct uniform.
They can earn up to 100 in two weeks.
It was the brainchild of a Harvard economist.
How did you get the idea?
The first time I showed up at Harvard,
it was like landing on the moon.
I grew up in the neighbourhoods these kids are in.
I saw a kid sit around a dinner table
and each one of them could see that school paid off,
because their family were professors,
their uncles were investment bankers.
For these kids, a lot of them don't see those examples to light the way.
And so we're asking them to take a gamble.
We're asking them to say, you know, "I want to do education,
"but I've got to wait 20 years for my reward."
These kids, a lot of them have real challenges right now.
I love them so much, OK? But the truth is, only 12% of them
are doing math at grade level, right?
And 8% are reading at grade level.
That is a catastrophe. That is a crisis.
No-one has the courage to tell those black boys in there
that statistically - they're 12 now - statistically, in seven years,
one in three will be in prison.
Can I see your certificate?
"Pay period 4, congratulations you've earned 58.57."
So, how much do you think you've earned since the scheme began?
When I come to school, it's just to learn
because my mum sent me here,
-but now I just really love learning.
What do you want to do when you're older? Can I ask you?
Actually, I'm saving my money to go to college.
And then once you're past college? What do you want to be?
Any job would be good.
Some might call it bribery,
but an array of reward techniques like this
are increasingly used by schools to motivate kids.
It's the latest weapon in their armoury
to help children reach their potential.
When it comes to children's behaviour, in many ways,
we've come full circle.
We started out with strict Victorian-style discipline
in the austere post-war era.
But turned our attention to the importance of love and happiness
in raising children.
You are a nice boy, really. Aren't you?
Yet, with more liberal parenting,
can sometimes come behavioural issues.
Never going to get the perfect child, are we?
We've had to focus again on discipline
in a bid to manage children's behaviour.
He's not being hurt.
Over the last 50 years, science has given us
insights into how children's minds work
and why they behave the way they do.
And it's kept pace with a rapidly changing society
and all the pressures that brings.
But parents are still left to interpret what it means for them.
Ultimately, there's only so much science can tell us about children.
They're not lab rats after all, and every child's an individual.
Today, we live in a much more child-centred world.
I think the challenge for parents is to know they can hold their ground.
To know they can say no, as well as listen to their child.
So, carrot or stick?
I think children need both love and discipline.
If you can get a healthy balance between those two,
then you'll be doing a great job!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Email [email protected]
Child psychologist Laverne Antrobus delves into the Horizon archive to find out how science has shaped our approach to parenting and education over the last fifty years. From lessons in motherly love to tough discipline to bribery tactics, she asks what's the best approach when it comes to bringing up children.
Laverne also explores how extreme behaviour can sometimes be explained by underlying neurological problems and discovers whether children learn best in a more child-centred environment.