Thursday, January 31, 2008

Youth crime and casual childbearing

One of the reasons for the increasing ferocity of youth crime is the breakdown of the family and the dysfunction of relationships within what is left of the family. The most obvious changed aspect of today's families is the absent father. That alone does not produce delinquent youths but a lack of a strong male role model starts a child off in a position of disadvantage. Some children have fathers who they would probably be better off without, and the same can be said for mothers. But the sort of family that is best placed to raise a secure and self-respecting teenager has been steadily eroded by welfare benefits that accrue to broken or incomplete families.

During the 40s, 50s and 60s youth crime was much more infrequent and less violent than it is today. Although many teenagers then had lost a father to war or desertion, they were not raised on a diet of welfare or fed an entitlement mentality. Their mothers received some assistance but many worked and instilled the need to work in their children.

In the 70s this began to change. Babies began being born to women who had no intention of raising them with a partner. Women who, if they thought about it, believed they could do just as good a job as the two parent, working family so long as the government paid them to stay home and parent. Many did.

But a growing group did not. As the negative consequences for unmarried birth disappeared the casual approach to childbearing grew. As more focus fell on ex-nuptial births, surveys revealed these children were more at risk of being abused or neglected. Abused and neglected children have far greater potential for becoming criminals.

Unmarried births now account for 45 percent of all births. Some of these babies will be born into enduring de facto relationships but those circumstances are reasonably rare.

Today's youth workers say that the solution to youth crime is for children to have a quality relationship with an adult or adults. But which relationship is the most predominant in a child's life? The one he has with his mother and/or father, which begins at birth. The chances of that relationship being strong or even existing are reduced by casual childbearing. And casual childbearing is directly related to the elimination of negative consequences. In fact, receiving a steady and guaranteed income from the government is seen as a positive consequence.

Add to this that very young maternal age is shown to further increase a child's risk of becoming a criminal. Yet an income which surpasses the minimum wage is paid to girls as young as 16 who decide to continue with a pregnancy. Half of those young mothers aged 16 and 17 and receiving welfare are typically Maori. Half of our prison population is Maori. This is more than a coincidence but a blind eye is effectively turned by government who make no attempt to research an association.

Because the stream of teenage and un-partnered mothers going onto benefits long-term is steady, even growing slightly, New Zealand can expect the sort of youth violence we are seeing now to continue unabated. In that respect the new plans to fight youth crime are too little too late. Our leaders need to start talking about the prevention of casual childbearing and the removal of those incentives which cause it. Anything else is avoidance of the real issue and political expediency.


Anonymous said...

This drives me to despair. I am not sure how many middle class non-welfare families have first hand knowledge of this whole problem. Certainly the policy makers don't - or don't care if they do. Yesterday I went to see a tenant who has got bnehind in her rent. She has two small kids, is in her early to mid twenties and her partner has left her. He has moved in with another young thing he has fathered a baby with. I looked at this young woman and felt nothing but despair. Her older kid is already reactingto the absence of the father, with behavioural problems. More money on her benefit will do nothing to this situation - other than perhaps get my rent paid. There has to come a point where a line is drawn in the sand so we can stop this happening to another generation of kids. I wonder WHY are the politicians so cowardly and WHY more people don't acknowledge the problem and vote for change.

Brian Smaller

Anonymous said...

I'm asking Brian Smaller what he would actually do.

Anonymous said...

Jum, an important measure would be making more difficult to get the DPB and limiting it to the first child.

In fact, the reform/dismantling of the welfare state, along the lines proposed by Lindsay over the years, is essential.

The Left would like to throw more money (has it helped in eduaction and health?), but that is a waste of resources.

Growing state intervention and diminished individual responsibility (anathema to socialists, I may add) will only compound the problem.

P.S. Brian is entitled to disagree with me :-)

Anonymous said...

Jum - I don't know what all the answers are. But a place to start would be to start limiting entitlement to welfare.

Putting a lifetime time limit on certain benefits - dole, dpb for starters. Extra kids generating while on welfare should attract no extra payment. THis is 2008, not 1908, contraception IS available free. Also, no named father, no benefit. The dpb cannot be seen as a lifestyle choice.

Coupled with that there has to be incentives to get people off benefits. Training, part time work incentives. That sort of thing. A decent economy that actually creates jobs would help as well.

I would also kick many people on sickness benefits off welfare. It is a rort and everyone knows it. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't know someone on a sickness benefit. I manage to work with crippling headaches (I suffer trigeminal neuralgia), a stuffed knee that creaks and hurts when I walk up stairs and bad backache. If I can work two jobs then people I know who are half my age and on SBs certainly can. Getting state assistance because you are depressed?? Come on. I am depressed most of the time. Should I get paid for it?

It is patently obvious to anyone that has eyes that the current situation has led to the state we are now in. More of the same will only make it worse.

Brian Smaller

virginblogger said...

I agree - the whole welfare dole outs are irresponsible and should be limited to 1 child. Incentivising kids to breed is ridiculous with no parenting accountabilities. We see all the time cases where the kids are neglected, most out of ignorance, some from sadistic abuse. NZ has to wake up if we want to walk our streets without being terrorised by youth mobs.

I resent paying for multi-generational beneficiaries and now clark wants me to pay parental leave and an extra 2 yrs in school - who is going to manage the truancy rates?