George Walford: The Eternal Child

The superficiality of much opinion research and of the journalism reporting it, even in the heavier newspapers, sometimes takes one’s breath away. In the Sunday Times (14 Jan 90) Rufus Olins writes up a research project carried out over 18 months by an advertising agency. Studying children aged 12 to 15, the investigators concluded that the practice of self-restraint for the common good would prove to be a passing fad; already by the age of ten today’s children are demanding television sets and hi-fi systems. Those questioned repudiated concern over environmental issues, aerosols, chemical fertilisers and food additives, and regarded old people as objects for ridicule. By 1995 they will form “the most materialistic and affluent generation in the nation’s history.”

The report gives no indication of any attempt to compare the attitudes of these children with those of previous generations. When did children of these ages not demand all they could get, ignore the concerns of their parents and regard old people as objects for ridicule? Neither does it show any awareness that a concern for issues wider than the wellbeing of oneself and one’s personal circle comes with maturation when it comes at all.

The clients of the agency carrying out the research include Cadbury-Schweppes, Watney Mann and Truman, the Post Office and government departments. If organisations of that size and weight really do allow themselves to be influenced by such naiveties this may go some way to explain the condition of the world.

from Ideological Commentary 44, March 1990.