London - Rising numbers of middle-class children are suffering mental health problems amid a trend for risk-averse parents to raise them “in captivity”, a leading psychologist warns.

Professor Tanya Byron said youngsters are growing up in a “paranoid” culture which tries to protect them but leaves them unable to cope with life’s challenges.

She said she was treating increasing numbers of children with anxiety disorders who lack “emotional resilience” and are afraid of failure.

Professor Byron, who has been a clinical psychologist for 23 years and featured on the BBC series House Of Tiny Tearaways, said these children were “breaking down” despite being “bright” and not “from backgrounds where you would predict a greater chance of them having emotional, psychological or mental health problems”.

“There is a real concern that we have a generation of children and young people who are lacking massively in emotional resilience,” she said.

Professor Byron said a prevalent “risk-averse culture” was doing children a huge disservice.

“Children are being raised in captivity,” she told the teachers’ journal SecEd. “When was the last time you saw a kid out enjoying themselves on their bike?

“Children are not really encouraged, supported or taught how to assess, take and manage risk and I think that it is developmentally catastrophic for them.

“We live in a litigious, risk-averse culture where paranoia is rife and we have an education system that is so built around targets and testing that teachers and head teachers are constrained from being innovative.

“But risk-taking is important because it helps children to accept, understand and embrace failure.

“The times when you fail are often the most powerful learning experiences one can ever have.”

She added: “Obviously I’m not saying that we should just let all our kids fail and take them skate-boarding and mountain-climbing instead, but it does question the education system... and the way we teach children.” - Daily Mail