Intended for healthcare professionals

Views And Reviews

Covid-19 could prompt an end to our continued betrayal of childhood

BMJ 2020; 371 doi: (Published 30 November 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4667
  1. Al Aynsley-Green, professor emeritus of child health
  1. University College London, UK
  1. al{at}

Many children in wealthy countries face huge yet avoidable adversities, risk factors for toxic stress, and lifelong physical and mental health problems. Al Aynsley-Green notes how the pandemic has compounded this scandal, but presents a chance to reset the baseline

Our children have some of the worst outcomes in the developed world for health, education, social care, justice, and poverty, as my 2018 book The British Betrayal of Childhood documented. High levels of childhood adversity can give rise to a toxic stress response, with lifelong implications for physical as well as mental health.

My findings were not new. In 2013 the BMA argued that children had been “betrayed on a grand scale” by a lack of political support. In 2017, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health documented shocking key indicators, including for child mortality, preventable injuries, mental ill health, adverse health behaviours, long term conditions, and family and social environments. Three years later, progress has stalled and in some cases is reversing.

The covid-19 response

Children seem more resistant to covid-19 infection but have suffered disproportionately from lockdowns: school …

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