The Daily Mail reports that research suggests that childhood is over by the tender age of 11. Parents admit giving in to "pester pressure" and allowing their children an array of grown-up privileges. Increasingly, youngsters can stay out late, drink alcohol, have sex and watch inappropriate films. Little girls in particular are growing up faster than ever. They abandon playing with dolls past the age of six and go on to pierce their ears, dye their hair and wear make-up.
Researchers for Random House publishers who surveyed 1,170 parents with children under 18 found that 55 per cent believed children were "young adults" by 11.
Almost three quarters allowed their youngsters to drink alcohol at home before they turned 18, even though their own parents had reserved it for adults only.
Just under half of parents let their 16-year-olds stay the night at a boyfriend or girlfriend's house, although they themselves had been banned from doing so until 18.
Other findings show that 35 per cent of parents allow their under-12s to pierce their ears, 54 per cent let their daughters dye their hair and wear make-up by the age of 14, and 57 per cent let children watch 18-certificate films before the legal age.
Almost three-quarters admitted their children had "scant" regard for their authority and regularly acted against their will.
The survey was commissioned to coincide with the launch of popular children's author Jacqueline Wilson's book My Sister Jodie. She said that youngsters act like adults at an "alarmingly early age". "I know girls are desperate to look cool, but I wish they didn't all want to wear very high heels and inappropriately tight trendy clothes," she said. "I'm not saying all under-12s should wear puff-sleeved dresses and little white socks and tee-strap sandals as I had to, but at least you could run about and play properly in them. I wish children did still play with dolls past the age of six. I played all sorts of elaborate games with my dolls until I was at secondary school."
Miss Wilson said her Fifties childhood had been very different. "For the most part, children did as they were told," she said. "We might have privately disagreed with our parents or teachers, but we didn't dare argue too much. It's good that we listen and want the best for our children nowadays - but perhaps we should remember that they are only children and need a little loving guidance."