There is an inverse relationship between children’s age and public tolerance of their minor and major misdemeanours. It is not too gross a generalization to say that in Western countries such as the UK there is a continuum from the very positive ways adults respond to infants in their prams and cots, to the intolerant and often punitive responses displayed to challenging behaviour by older children and young people. At the same time, difficult behaviour can become apparent at any time in the life course and is certainly not impossible even at a very young age in childhood. In Western countries, the dominant culture has tended to remain firmly unsympathetic towards children once they begin to assert their autonomy and test out their boundaries. To some extent, it is a subjective matter to judge what constitutes difficult behaviour. There is no objective standard, fixed for all time and for all cultures, of acceptable and non-acceptable behaviour. Historically in the UK, children were expected to be seen and not heard, or preferably not seen at all. In some ethnic groups and social classes, children are closely supervised by parents, whereas in others they have a good deal of freedom and there is much more tolerance of their behaviour. Whether behaviour is regarded as difficult is largely a function of cultural and social norms and boys may be granted more latitude than girls in some situations.
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