Thursday, September 24, 2020

Boys, mistrust and violence

 A reader sent me this US 'City Journal' article, Breaking Things,  about boys, mistrust and violence.

We didn’t really believe that the adults in our lives cared about what we did. Seth got thrown out of his house and wouldn’t tell us why. Josh and Brandon’s dad had been divorced five times, and he was always traveling for work. My adoptive mother had recently moved to another town. When I called her every two weeks or so, I lied that my grades were good and that I was doing all my homework. Maybe if we did something severe enough, they would give us their attention. Maybe if we got into enough trouble, or needed enough help, they would be more like the parents we wanted. On some level, we had stopped caring about ourselves in order to get them to care for us. When adults let their children down, kids learn to make choices that let themselves down. Our disappointment with adults led us to believe that rules weren’t actually legitimate. They were invented by adults to keep us from having fun. Why should we listen? 

...Many pundits and commentators focus on economic deprivation or sociocultural factors—above all, racism—to explain the recent wave of urban anger, triggered by Floyd’s awful death. But the data show that American society has fewer people in poverty and less bigotry compared with decades past; and police use of force is far less pervasive than it was during higher-crime periods. What has been getting far worse, however, is family life. Stable families have been in free fall over the last few decades. In 1960, the out-of-wedlock birthrate in the U.S. was 3 percent. In 2000, it was about 30 percent. Today, it is 40 percent. (This figure obscures class divisions: for college graduates, only one out of ten children is born out of wedlock. For those with only a high school diploma, six out of ten are born to unmarried parents.)

The lack of stable families has contributed to the widespread mistrust of others and lack of social relationships among young people. It has, I believe, given rise to a sense of nihilism even in an era of relative material abundance, which has characterized some of the violent upheavals.

I concur with the writer. It's childhood stability that protects against negative social outcomes. The main change in my thinking about it over twenty years is that a stable lone parent is better than a lone parent who goes through a series of relationships. And better than a two parent family where the parents are at war with each other. Above all children need  a parent or caregiver who prioritises them above all else.

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