Britain's community spirit rests heavily on the activities of the nation's children, a study claims.
Rather than linking children to Asbo-attracting teenagers hanging around on street corners, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) thinktank believes children have a vital role to play in helping forge community spirit.
The decision on whether or not to allow children to roam free around their neighbourhoods is often a key test on the matter, the study finds. It claims that many parents respond to the decisions of other classmates' parents based on safety issues, meaning that many children are permitted out alone in relatively pleasant areas with a strong community spirit.
Children also play an indirect role in forging communities by encouraging links between parents - whether travelling to and from school, engaging in formal activities or just spending time in the park, the report argues.
This reality is not reflected in either of the two predominant stereotypes about the role of children within the community, ESRC report author Susie Weller argues.
"On the one hand, children are frequently portrayed as vulnerable, incompetent, and in need of protection from the possible dangers of town and city streets. On the other, those allowed to go out and meet up in public areas are often regarded as intimidating and anti-social," she said.
Click here to run an energy price comparison, and see if you could be paying less for your gas and electricity.