Friday, January 27, 2017

"Marriage is a dirty word?"

Last year's report Child Abuse and Family Structure: What is the evidence telling us? largely flew below the radar. But this welcome editorial appeared in the Northland Age earlier this week. Thank you Peter Jackson, whoever you are. 

Editorial: Marriage is a dirty word?
By Peter Jackson

Bob McCoskrie will be well used to it by now, but the response to a report declaring that children who are raised by their married biological parents are at a much reduced risk of abuse is illuminating.
The first response to last week's Northland Age story (Ssshhh - Don't mention family structure) was to dismiss the report because it had been commissioned by Family First.
Such is the level of critical thinking in some quarters these days. And it is that prejudice against what some see as old-fashioned values, as promoted by Family First, that is preventing us from doing anything meaningful to reduce the rate of violence against children.
All might not be lost though. One reader who dismissed Lindsay Mitchell's research as propaganda supposed that the key might be stability rather than marital status.
Fancy that. Such a profound analysis must give us all cause to believe in the survival of intelligence.
Lindsay Mitchell, whose history strongly suggests she is not for sale to any lobby group, has an impressive CV as a welfare commentator and researcher.
More importantly, her conclusions on this occasion do not apply solely to this country.
The indisputable fact that children who grow up in step, blended or sole-parent families are in greater danger of abuse by adults than those who grow up with both biological parents is replicated elsewhere.
Some hackles will be raised by her finding that Maori and Pacific families are over-represented in child abuse rates, and feature more than their share of ex-nuptial births, the absence of one parent or both, large numbers of siblings (especially from clustered or multiple births) and/or very young mothers. Long-term welfare dependence is another risk factor.
But, before the knives come out, she also finds that Maori and non-Maori children alike who live in two-parent working families suffer very low abuse rates.
Asian children, whose population has the lowest proportion of single-parent families, suffer disproportionately low rates of abuse.
The presence of biological fathers matters, she says, in protecting children from abuse, and marriage presents the greatest likelihood that the father will remain part of an intact family.
Mitchell's final conclusion is that there are "certain" family structures in which children will be far more vulnerable than others.
Is anyone surprised by that? Well yes, apparently some are. And offended. Some see it as a shameless plug for Family First, and the espousing of values that have had their day.
The world has changed, you see. Adults now have the right to scratch their itches. If they don't want to commit to a relationship, they don't have to.
Society no longer expects a public display of commitment, and like it or not, some children are paying a very high price for that.



granddad said...

All this is of course well known by those who follow such topics. I've just finished reading "The Demon in Democracy" and "The Servile Mind" which puts a lot of the current attitudes towards groups such as Family First and indeed to much of current societal values/attitides into context

Mark Wahlberg said...

Lindsay, its always heartening to receive unsolicited support, from unexpected quarters.

I wasn't going to respond, but after reading the entire article and especially the piece about kindergartens, I find myself hunched over my keyboard.

For 25 years My much loved wife was involved in the kindergarten movement as both teacher and administrator and has always spoken passionately in support of the ethos outlined in the argument presented.

Over the years we have been together, it has not been uncommon for Tigerlil to be accosted in the street by adults with children in tow, who proclaim themselves her ex pupils from their childhood years. They suggest, their reason for sending their own children to kindergarten is based on the positive role model Tigerlil presented as a teacher. Affirmation indeed.

My wife has not been teaching for many years, but has been working at the coal face with at risk families, dealing with much of what gets discussed here on your blog.

I was going to mention that Tigerlil and I have been married six times between the two of us, but I suspect thats a story best left for another time.