Saturday, October 03, 2009

Are 'broken families' responsible for 'Broken Britain'?

As the Conservative Party gathers in a damp and dismal Manchester to consider how the country’s broken politics can fix broken Britain, the BBC’s Mark Easton asks the question: “Are 'broken families' responsible for 'Broken Britain'?

He quotes Iain Duncan Smith: "I have always believed that it would be impossible to prove conclusively that simply having a lone parent effects your outcomes as a child and we have never argued that.”

Dave and Liz Percival make some sensible comments at their Weekly Update of UK Marriage News No 9.35 20 September 09, which can be found at

Nick Gulliford observes:

"At first sight the news that children of single parents do as well as those of married parents, both academically and behaviourally may seem like a real blow to some of the arguments for the “benefits” of marriage..... But dig a little deeper behind the bald headline and one finds an important caveat – singleness is OK as long as it is constant, with no new partners entering the scene.... This poses a dilemma for policy makers – shift policy to make re-partnering of single mums less socially acceptable, or support the formation of the most stable family structure before children are born, and ensure it is supported throughout life. Far from being bad news, this [OECD] study to me seems to point to one of the most compelling arguments why the inherent stability of marriage should be high on society’s agenda – the fluidity of modern “serial relationships” is destroying the lives and futures of our kids."

The argument, “support the formation of the most stable family structure before children are born, and ensure it is supported throughout life” seems convincing to me, along with the argument of the OECD which is 'convinced that giving specific benefits to single parents may make matters worse.' "There is little or no evidence that these benefits positively influence child well-being, while they discourage single-parent employment.

In the UK we have tried giving substantial benefits to 'single' parents – many of whom [up to 200,000 according to Frank Field] are not really 'single' but hostesses of 'guest' [often serial] stepfathers – only to find the lives of the children are disrupted to a much greater extent than if they remained genuinely 'single' mothers. Indeed, the rates of child abuse in such 'families' is significantly higher, some studies indicating 33 times greater.

What we have not tried in the UK is to “support the formation of the most stable family structure before children are born, and ensure it is supported throughout life”. Indeed, the status of married couples has been undermined through both the tax and benefit systems, most particularly that of the poorest married couples.

When the Labour government was elected, the Social Exclusion Unit announced that there were eight indicators of deprivation, one of which was 'family breakdown'. However, when the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit and the ONS published the Neighbourhood Indices of Deprivation in 2001 there were only seven of them, plus an Index of Multiple Deprivation, the omission being 'family breakdown'.

No one has given a satisfactory explanation as to why there is no Neighbourhood Index of Domestic and Social Cohesion, nor have politicians or journalists been sufficiently inquisitive to investigate.

Mark Easton quotes the OECD, "There is little or no evidence that these [single parent] benefits positively influence child well-being.... “ At the start of 2009 a Local [Neighbourhood] Index of Child Well-being was published – though not included in the Index of Multiple Deprivation; this was published through the DCLG which is now responsible for the Indices.

So in future, it should be possible to measure changes in 'child well-being'. But I doubt very much if this government will sanction the publishing of an 'index of domestic and social cohesion' for fear that neighbourhoods with low levels of domestic and social cohesion are shown to be much the same as the neighbourhoods with low levels of child well-being.

And that would never do for HMG, and probably not for the BBC either!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

An illuminating discussion, your Grace, esp. in digging beneath the headlines.
A generation of undermining marriage through permissive divorce and the abomination of same-sex 'marriage' has undermined the poorest children of this country.
Unfortunately, is there enough integrity in the Conservatives to reverse the damage? At least scum (I use the word advisedly) like Alan Duncan seem to be in the backseat - for the present...

3 October 2009 at 08:29  
Anonymous eeyore said...

The last time a welfare state was tried in Britain, in the reign of King George III, we suffered widespread family breakdown in that part of society to which it was applied - essentially the rural poor.

That experience,as well as our own, indicates that State Welfarism appears to breed irresponsibility, which leads to moral deracination - and thus we are set on the high road to family breakdown.

Rewarding poor people in direct proportion to their fecklessness is always a policy that punishes the responsible. It pauperised the sturdy English peasantry 220 years ago,and the same folly is pauperising their less admirable proletarian descendants now.

So, Your Grace, my answer to your headline question is No, you have inverted the true state of the proposition, and Broken Britain bears the responsibility for Broken Families.

Of course, from a Labour point of view, the more poor, hopeless, demoralised people the better, because "Labour is nothing if not the party of the poor" (Lord Hattersley). That, no doubt, is why Labour governments always wreck the economy, so that Labour-voting paupers may be as numerous as possible.

3 October 2009 at 08:57  
Blogger Raedwald said...

Beware an uncorroborated comment from a non-academic site. Long term evidence suggests conclusively that children growing up without their biological fathers tend to be disadvantaged on a massive range of indicators - see the research on the Civitas site, particularly

3 October 2009 at 09:38  
Blogger Gnostic said...

There are single parent family units and there are pariah (feral) families. One group strives hard to bring their children up as best they can using the (often) frugal means at their disposal. The other group don't give a toss and the kids are left to fend for themselves any way they can.

Under the Nu Labour Do Gooders Charter we see cared for children snatched from cohesive family units (I include cohesive single family units) after one or more parents give warranted lip to social workers in jackboots mode. We see neglected children from broken families tortured and beaten to death because social workers failed to perform their duties.

Social deprivation is blamed for criminal and violent behaviour. I think that's a weasel excuse. There are many poor families who get by without preying on their neighbours.

I've seen pariah families lifted out of deprived inner city areas by housing associations and put into quiet neighbourhoods in towns. The idea is that if you take away the deprivation the family will begin to function as it should. Does that work? Well no, actually. I have seen (and lived in) entire neighbourhoods terrorised by a single family as a result. The neighbourhood isn't as tough as the previous one and there's a whole new world of victims to terrorise.

Take a stand against hooliganism and find yourself in the dock like this disabled pensioner did.

Convicted for bending a thug's ear

Just because the victim was the sole witness to the incident doesn't mean the boy didn't do it. The incident should have ended with a quiet word from the attending police officer and then quietly dropped. But no, things can't be settled until the victim is prosecuted.

If the Tories want to begin mending broken Britain then they should begin with apportioning justice and law where it belongs. Justice for the victim and law for the malcontents who are flicking two fingers at authority because they know they can get away with it.

3 October 2009 at 09:46  
Anonymous Brian E. said...

Unfortunately the term "single mother" is applied as a general term to cover a wide number of situations which are entirely different.
A friend of ours, a widow with two children, strongly objects to being referred to as a single mother, as she says, it was not her choice to bring up the children by herself, and whilst it is acceptable to be called a widowed mother, the phrase single mother has all the wrong connotations.
I suspect divorcees are also not happy with the term; again I know a divorcee whose husband left her. She has no serial boy-friends and has two teenage children that one could be proud of.
As far as I am concerned, the single mothers who give problems are those with serial boyfriends, several children by various fathers and who live on the state and leave the children to their own resources. These are the ones who need to be brought to account.

3 October 2009 at 10:13  
Anonymous bethel said...

The underlying and wrong assumption that social engineering is a function and a purpose of Government can only undermine party political posturings of whatever hue. That's why both the Conservatives and Labour make such a hash of family policy.

3 October 2009 at 10:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gnostic is correct. These people have been allowed to run wild. The surfs are out of control and are no longer playing happy families. They must be forced into it because it is upsetting the toffs. Gas chambers anyone?

No, on a more serious note, Gnostic is correct. I am a surf from a working class background and I resent the idea that I have to conform because it suits the wealthy and privileged, but in saying this, my own working class life is equally miserable these days being surrounded by what I would class as pure uncivilised scum (and I have nothing to be a snob about). I don't know how much truth there is in the idea that NuLabour have really tried to create a more balanced and meritocratic society, but if they have tried, then they have failed monumentally.

The old class divisions have changed somewhat, there are still the pure and arrogant superior types who have an advanced DNA code, but down here on Earth amongst the inferior DNA society, we have seen the development of a new race of mutant humanoid parasite. And to be perfectly honest with myself, Gas Chambers are the only real solution that I can see making any short term changes. Any other format is going to take generations of new education programmes and the building of more prisons to accommodate the scum while the changes are taking place. The end result may not be Heaven on Earth, but it has to be better than this.

3 October 2009 at 10:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can't unteach an old dog old tricks! You may get him to learn to crap outside, but leave him to himself and he will happily take a dump in the house.

3 October 2009 at 10:46  
Anonymous Daniel said...

I still would not fraternise with lions in the jungle though, not until they muzzle that superior DNA. So don't go getting all smug about some of the comments here.

3 October 2009 at 10:50  
Blogger Miss Snuffleupagus said...

Your Grace
Chaos is what matters. Married couples are normally more stable, more secure, more reliable. So children do well in such families. Single parents who do not have different partners, again, routine and predictable situations are possible. Children need routine to flourish. Those married couples who are chaotic also have crazy children.

Most of the children I teach have half brothers and sisters. It is unusual NOT to have one. Some have several - all with different fathers. That is chaos. And these children suffer.

But take a mother who has a good job but no husband, one child, and no boyfriends, who gives her child structure and boundaries and I guarantee you will find a happy child.

3 October 2009 at 10:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also think its a bit of a myth that its the poor family or model of family that's the problem
Those with money have more at hand to hide or buy off the problems
Some of the most spoilt ,obnoxious kids I have met are those from so called middle class aspirational two parent families.
Broken Britain is due to bad social and economic policy ,too much caring about self and not enough about each other

3 October 2009 at 10:58  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Anon @ 10:34

My immediate ancestors are "serfs". I come from a poor working class background. My maternal parents worked hard to get themselves out of abject poverty and my mother worked hard and did a series of crap jobs with long hours to stay out of poverty after she split up with my father (he was a gambler). I was part the first generation to reap the benefits. I also understand the debt I owe to my family for getting me where I am now.

My family history is in no way remarkable. Ordinary, decent, hard working people are in the majority. It's just that you wouldn't think so if you read the newspapers or watch the news.

I wouldn't go so far as gas chambers but I do believe that a judicial dose of old fashioned corporal punishment would keep some of the buggers in line. Asbos are a sick joke.

3 October 2009 at 11:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Breaking News11:02am UK, Saturday October 03, 2009

Ireland 'Votes Yes' In EU Treaty Referendum

3 October 2009 at 11:12  
Anonymous sydneysider said...

I'm not happy about 'surfs' being maligned.For starters I had no idea there was a surf culture in Britain. Surfs are very healthy
people usually vegetarians or macrobiotics of gentle disposition and environmentally aware causing no upset or problem to society generally spaeaking apart from the occasional wave rage.

3 October 2009 at 12:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Attn Spelling monitors

Gas Surfs also (not that they need any help).

Intersting point by Valleys Mam though: Obnoxious toffs who are equally out of control - Gas Chamber.

Word verification = bratie

3 October 2009 at 13:26  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Spaeking' apart? (too much of the old gas me thinks - roll em a bit smaller)

Word verification = oventite (it gets more relevant each time)

3 October 2009 at 13:36  
Anonymous Philip said...

Excellent post, and I agree with comments on the tread about the negative consequences of the welfare state and the undermining of traditional marriage.

We can only expect the BBC and the rest of the lib-left establishment to grasp at anything they can to attack IDS's policies on supporting marriage - they seem to hate the insitution (traditional marriage) that is the basis of a healthy society and is best for children, preferring 'anything goes pick the lifestyle of your choice' regardless of consequences.

3 October 2009 at 14:31  
Anonymous toff said...

oventite- does that mean you're pregnant?

3 October 2009 at 14:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife ( a former Head of Nursary)
tells of a family she visited that she approached with trepidation. Single Mum child "Conan" on a poor estate and the home the poorest she has ever seen. The children were brilliant because of one reddeming feature. Mum loved them, prioritised them, read to them, engaged with them.

This is not a hymn to single parenthood but a necessary caution. Some poor Single Mums ( for whatever reason) parent well. I accept that the statistics are against them. More important, poverty is not always the reason for poor parenthood and the efforts of such mothers as I describe are demeaned by those who have a knee jerk reaction either from the judgemental, or those who always reduce these discussions to economics.

I wonder if one might offer enhanced Child Benefit to those who are married for a year before a child is born?

3 October 2009 at 17:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Gulags for Slags idea is quite a good one I think, and a great extension to this would be some kind of public workforce where destitutes can work on public projects in the communities for basic food and shelter....and providing empowerment pathways back to living in self sustaining ways. It's healthy for them, and it's healthy for society in general. Who benefits from anyone sleeping rough and living out of garbage cans and litter bins?

Once people hit the bottom it is difficult to climb back up, but I am not suggesting a free loading handout, not so, give people the chance to work their way back up.

Anti social behaviour should result in extreme re-education and character reforming programmes. Asbos and 24hr cell enclosures are not any solution for anyone. Real work, real education that displays benefits to the subjects. Bring back death as an option of reform if it does not deter and reform those who are inclined to kill people then death to them. When you take your dog to the vet for termination they do it instantly with 10 times the dose of's over in seconds, so why all the BS with 4 diferent tubes for people on death row? If the government have no clue then take murderers to the local vet, he has just the trick!

3 October 2009 at 17:20  
Blogger Jess The Dog said...

I've done some work in this field....there isn't any data in the deprivation index to show single parents but you can easily map other indicators (benefit claimant count, single parents of working age) and it all jumps off the map at you (as anyone with half a brain would conclude anyway).

3 October 2009 at 19:50  
Anonymous Adrian P said...

All quite deliberate I'm afraid, undermine morals, christianity, the family, promote 24hr drinking, look at the stuff they put on TV, Big brother, jeremy kyle, eastenders, road wars, street wars, put this in front a child for years at a time,m guess what, they will grow up emulating what they see.
Take a child to australia for a few years, guess what, they come back with Australian accents.
Since this has all be deliberate and comes under the term Frankfurt Subversion, then whatever they sugest to solve the problem is what they were planning all along.

I hear people agreeing to conscription, why, so our kids can go fight for oil for the military industrial complex.

If they want to fix it, get the crap off our tv screens, put on some culture, love, honour, decency, patriotism, courage, pride, friendship, these are human values too, why are they rarely portrayed on TV....its all by design.

3 October 2009 at 23:30  
Anonymous not a machine said...

your grace does a good article , there is a problem on where to start , thus far Ian Duncan Smith has clearly been giving the subject a great deal of thought and shedding some light.

When you are a child you are set behavioural patterns , some have a hard wire aspect , but as far as I can tell we learn from our parents/peers/enviroment. Time and time again we get the most horrific cases like the Pilkington one come to the surface , and then the "I blame the parents" line.

We are then left with the open to interpretation aspect of what "good parents" really are .

In a socialist set up , you would expect there to be a general movement to take responsibility away from parents and find more for the state to inflate its ego about , which by enlarge is what we have seen . there are also the corporate paid for meddelars who churn out , drug experiment theories , violent video games are healthy , sugary caffine drinks just make you alert and dont alter perception .

if you have come to wonder where the parent sits in the mangement of there own flesh and blood , they become the biological componeent and not the responsible one.

goverment is quite happy for you to hand them over to synthetic TV emotions , as they can re align the unit to there whims more .
If there is a behavioural problem , they can make TV to answer that as well.

We then have this kind of it wasnt me victim situation , where we are asked to feel sorry for the problems that have been put in these kids minds , the conformity en masse then begins to degrade , as parental responsibility has been removed , and like dumb animals we sit and wait expectantly for the government to know what to do.

Big brother is useually perfect in the eye of the socialist , as they always assume it is a corretly programmed sequence of thought , the void of real life corrective emotions to make sense of the thoughts and perhaps to determine if right or wrong applies , is missing .

if it turns out that we have to teach and respect morals , then parents that dont know what to do is a diaster leading to mounting social problems , as the moral signal is weaking by the corrosive forces of the state interefernece and dislocated control .

this debate has a way to go yet and alas there are still too many intellectuals , who cannot yet tell the difference between , media induction and child rearing.

I suspect there is somthing deeper to do with time and life , and its interconnectedness , that as parents we cannot reach fullfillment unless we look after creation , I very much doubt God would have brought about such an abstract system , there will be somthing holy in this matter by the time we burn away all the layers of what Big brother has wanted us to think !.

4 October 2009 at 00:22  
Blogger ZZMike said...

I don't think we can lay the blame for the Decline and Fall of the British Empire at any one single cause - but still, the family is the basis of any civilization. One can take it from there.

I think we can say that broken families are the cause of what happened to the unfortunate widow, Mrs Renate Bowling, 71, in Blackpool.

4 October 2009 at 01:15  
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4 October 2009 at 04:06  
Blogger OldSouth said...

I remember clearly the day when it dawned upon me why marriage seemed to be so difficult to maintain successfully in our culture here in the US:

The law had actually created incentives to divorce, with any number of people--lawyers, courts, social workers, therapists and the like--with a financial stake in the failure of marriages.

Silly me, silly me...and all along I hand thought that marriage was an honorable and desirable institution.

4 October 2009 at 05:45  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

The government should value and support the family unit more. Children need their dad at home not leaping off tall buildings in protest of the meagre access rights he’s been given. Positive promotion and incentives for married couples to stay together like marriage guidance facilities which should be funded by the government and free for the troubled couples. If my parents generation could stay together to be able to celebrate their Golden wedding anniversary’s then I’m sure following generations can do the same.

It seems fashionable nowadays to have the morals of an alley cat. And this is supported by TV programs, fuelled by stories in the media and the “you too can live like a celebrity” culture. The pursuit of a hedonistic lifestyle akin to the continuation of the Ibiza holiday club scene fuelled by “happy hours “ down the pub and cheap supermarket booze has all contributed to the decline in family values.

Divorce is too easy and benefits are more in favour of the single parent instead of the family. Financial strain is one of the highest reasons a couple split so a father should be able to earn a reasonable wage to enable him to be the main breadwinner to provide for a wife and 2 children.

Also young couples need to be made more aware of the actual cost of bringing up children before they have any. I think its very irresponsible for people to create all these children without a thought as to how they are going to fund them and then they expect the state to pay.

4 October 2009 at 16:55  
Anonymous Dick the Prick said...

Apols for being both ignorant and in a hurry but only got to the first paragraph before having to dash to a cabinet briefing. My old dear raised myself & our Bob on her own and after 4 degrees between us, he happily married with two gorgeous daughters, me a complete pisshead who's devoted his life to politics - well, she could have done better is all I say!!

Muchos gracias Your Grace.

5 October 2009 at 14:54  

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