Fatherlessness and Violence

The London riots have simply reconfirmed and graphically illustrated what the social sciences have been telling us for a half century now: when we allow society to disregard the institution of marriage and in fact assault the institution of family, we are asking for – and will get – trouble.

The social science evidence on this is as overwhelming as it is clear: by every indicator, children will be worse off when not raised in a biological two-parent family. They will be more likely to do less well at school, to become involved in drugs, to commit suicide, to have a range of mental and psychological problems, and to get involved in gangs and criminal activity.

This has been documented so thoroughly now that only an ideologue who is pushing agendas can deny the evidence. Let me here just offer the smallest sampling of research data on this. These are just a few bits of the available evidence.

In an important book on the subject, Francis Ianni found that most gang members in America come from female-headed households. And a study of British communities in the American Journal of Sociology by Sampson and Groves found a direct statistical link between single parenthood and virtually every major type of crime, including mugging, violence against strangers, car theft and burglary.

One study tracked every child born on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in 1955 for 30 years. It found that five out of six delinquents with an adult criminal record came from families where a parent – almost always the father – was absent.

A study by Douglas Smith and G. R. Jarjoura analysed victimisation data on over 11,000 individuals from three urban areas in New York, Florida and Missouri. They arrived at this startling conclusion: the proportion of single-parent households in a community predicts its rates of violent crime and burglary, but the community’s poverty level does not. Neither poverty nor race seem to account very much for the crime rate, compared to the proportion of single parent families, Smith and Jarjoura found.

In Australia, a book by Alan Tapper highlights this connection between broken families and crime. In a study of rising crime rates in Western Australia, Tapper suggests that “family breakdown in the form of divorce and separation is the main cause of the crime wave”.

A longitudinal study of 512 Australian children found that there are more offenders coming from families of cohabiting than married couples, and there are proportionally more offenders who become recidivists coming from families of cohabiting than married couples. The study concludes, “The relationship between cohabitation and delinquency is beyond contention: children of cohabiting couples are more likely to be found among offenders than children of married couples”.

Even researchers who are wary of making a connection between broken families and crime have conceded that some relationship exists between the two. For example, David Demo and Alan Acock, who reviewed dozens of studies on the subject concluded: “A tentative conclusion based on the evidence reviewed here is that antisocial behaviour is less likely to occur in families where two adults are present, whether as biological parents, step-parents, or some combination of biological parents and other adults”.

Even stronger connections between crime and family breakdown have been made by the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney, which compared crime rates with out-of-wedlock birth rates from 1903 to 1993. It found that the “percentage of ex-nuptial births correlates significantly with both serious and violent crime at both one and two decades time lapse”.

What we see happening in the UK is just further evidence of this. Many social commentators have pointed this out. Theodore Dalrymple is a retired prison doctor and psychiatrist. He has worked with these sorts of people for decades and knows full well the connections between family breakdown and crime. And he sees the modern welfare state as playing a key role here.

He says: “British youth leads the Western world in almost all aspects of social pathology, from teenage pregnancy to drug taking, from drunkenness to violent criminality. There is no form of bad behaviour that our version of the welfare state has not sought out and subsidised.

“British children are much likelier to have a television in their bedroom than a father living at home. One-third of them never eat a meal at a table with another member of their household – family is not the word for the social arrangements of the people in the areas from which the rioters mainly come. They are therefore radically unsocialised and deeply egotistical, viewing relations with other human beings in the same way as Lenin: Who whom, who does what to whom. By the time they grow up, they are destined not only for unemployment but unemployability.

“For young women in much of Britain, dependence does not mean dependence on the government: that, for them, is independence. Dependence means any kind of reliance on the men who have impregnated them who, of course, regard their own subventions from the state as pocket money, to be supplemented by a little light trafficking. (According to his brother, Mark Duggan, the man whose death at the hands of the probably incompetent police allegedly sparked the riots, “was involved in things”, which things being delicately left to the imagination of his interlocutor.)”

He says elsewhere: “Three men were run over and killed as they tried to protect their property in the very area of Birmingham in which I used to work, and through which I walked daily; the large town that I live near when I’m in England has also seen rioting. Only someone who never looked around him and never drew any conclusions from the faces and manner of the young men he saw would have been surprised.

“The riots are the apotheosis of the welfare state and popular culture in their British form. A population thinks (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class) that it is entitled to a high standard of consumption, irrespective of its personal efforts; and therefore it regards the fact that it does not receive that high standard, by comparison with the rest of society, as a sign of injustice. It believes itself deprived (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class), even though each member of it has received an education costing $80,000, toward which neither he nor—quite likely—any member of his family has made much of a contribution; indeed, he may well have lived his entire life at others’ expense, such that every mouthful of food he has ever eaten, every shirt he has ever worn, every television he has ever watched, has been provided by others. Even if he were to recognize this, he would not be grateful, for dependency does not promote gratitude. On the contrary, he would simply feel that the subventions were not sufficient to allow him to live as he would have liked.”

And yet we have opinion makers and our political elites telling us it is a neat thing to deliberately bring children into the world without a mother and father. Thus Finance Minister Penny Wong proudly announced that she and her female lover are having a baby through IVF.

Miranda Devine offers some common sense commentary on this: “The fact that Penny Wong’s female partner is to have a baby is a cause for private celebration for them. But why are so many people exhorting the rest of us to celebrate as if this were some major milestone in human civilisation? You’d think no politician had ever had a child before.

“We are supposed to ignore Tony and Margie Abbott’s three daughters because every time he is seen with them it is some sort of unfair snub to Julia Gillard and reflection on her marital status. The traditional heterosexual norm of a nuclear family and children is something to be kept in a closet like an embarrassment.

“Tolerance has gone back to front. It is no longer good enough to accept without criticism female politicians in de facto or lesbian relationships. Now we have to downplay traditional marriage for fear of causing offence. No one can be a wife or husband any more. Everyone is a ‘partner’.

“The unorthodox situation of a lesbian artificially inseminated with the sperm of a male ‘acquaintance’ we are supposed to laud as if it were the Second Coming, the wonderful precursor of what the New York Times once lauded as the ‘post-marital’ future. Well, no.”

The media of course is using the Wong announcement to rally for their PC cause of the month: same-sex marriage. Says Devine, “I believe the push for same-sex marriage is not about enhancing the lives of gay couples. In countries where it has been legalised, there has been no rush to the altar. The issue is largely symbolic. It is simply a political tool to undermine the last bastion of bourgeois morality – the traditional nuclear family.

“You only had to see the burning streets of London last week to see the manifestation of a fatherless society. The collapse of family life in Britain has been laid bare, reported to have the highest proportion of single mothers in Europe and nearly half of all children suffering family breakdown by the age of 16. Fatherless families in underprivileged boroughs of London are the norm.

“People were quick to call for sanctions on the parents of feral youth looting shops and torching buildings. Clapham shop-owner Elizabeth Pilgrim wailed to the BBC: ‘They’re feral rats. What are those parents doing? Those children should be at home. They shouldn’t be out here causing mayhem.’ But the fact is the fathers of those children are probably long gone. There are no ‘parents’ to take charge and exert control over their wayward children.

“The welfare state has taken over the father’s role of protector, provider, and enforcer, substituting sit-down money for love and care. And what a mess it has made: fatherless boys full of incoherent rage, fatherless girls having another generation of fatherless babies to a string of feckless men. It is politically incorrect to say so, but the ideal situation for a child is to be brought up in an intact family with a father and a mother.

“As a rule, what prevents social chaos and the underclass is an intact family. What keeps children safe is an intact family, with a father in the home. Sure, there are aberrations, and you can always find evils within traditional families, domestic violence and child abuse.

“But even this imperfect institution is better than the Hobbesian social chaos the children of the underclasses have been born into for the last 50 years. Marriage is not just a private relationship: it is a social good. Collectively, the erosion of the institution of marriage, and the relegating of fathers to the sidelines, is destructive to society.”

And we have seen this perfectly played out in Britain this past week. And we will see more and more of it played out all over the Western world in days to come. Perhaps before too many more cities burn to the ground we will remember a vital truth: fathers are vitally important, and so too is heterosexual marriage.

When we play fast and loose with fathers and marriage we simply invite the sort of barbarism witnessed in London to become mainstream. We had better wise up before it is too late.


[1910 words]

22 Replies to “Fatherlessness and Violence”

  1. Hi Bill
    While I agree that Fathers are important, I raised from toddlers, two very decent, God loving children. I had a rough time raising them in the Church at times because I was a divorced women, even at our Christian school if my kids were naughty (hardly ever) it was supposedly because they were without a Father. Its not always so cut and dried.
    God had His plan for the three of us and we were just fine.
    Christine Taylor

  2. Thanks Christine

    Of course to argue for the vital importance of two-parent families and the crucial role of fathers – which both Scripture and the social sciences affirm – is not to say that a single parent can never do the job. With God’s grace any number of obstacles can be overcome.

    Many single parents find themselves in that situation by no fault of their own (perhaps because of the death or desertion of a spouse), and of course single parents need all the support they can get. They are doing twice the work with half the resources. But the point of this article was to highlight the many cases of adults deliberately bringing a child into the world without two biological parents, as in Penny Wong’s case.

    So we applaud your valiant efforts and good outcome. But of course exceptions do not make the rule, and what I said in the article above still applies – generally speaking, children fare worse in any other family structure than the two-parent married structure. And I am sure you would agree that in an ideal setting, you would have preferred to have had a husband and father there to work together with you.

    So the social science research still stands, and it conforms to the biblical ideal which we all should strive for, even though in a fallen world it does not always work out that way for every individual. Keep up the good work.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  3. Great article Bill. I also enjoyed reading Miranda Devine’s piece in today’s paper.

    The conclusions you summarise as discovered by researchers are blatantly obvious, yet, I cannot help but ask, how many politicians and other leaders in England and here, will actually endeavour to do something about it?

    George Kokonis

  4. Another brilliant but sad article Bill. It is not sad because you wrote it but that the elites refuse to listen to the truth. All the police in the world cannot control a Fatherless nation such as Britain is fast becoming as Bob Dylan sang “When will they ever learn?”.
    Warwick Marsh

  5. Christine Taylor – a job well done. I use to teach Aged care, Disability and Nursing in TAFE and I had and still do have the utmost admiration for single parents – both mothers and fathers – who would be studying one of the above courses either part or full time, look after their children and also have a part time job, with help mainly from their families, or friends and in a few cases their churches. The aim of their studies was not only to ensure financial security or themselves and their families, but to work with people, many of whom are disenfranchised by society.
    It is a pity that going by Christine’s comments it seems that she was judged by her fellow Christians, people should stop judging and start helping, after all they are fellow Christians!
    However Scaheffer’s comments about “personal peace and affluence and the non compassionate use of wealth” is not just the prerogative of non Christians!!!
    Wayne Pelling

  6. Hi Bill

    I’ve worked in psych wards for 10 years in NSW and fatherless is definitely a factor. But another common denominator I have witnessed often is weak willed parents that just stare timidly at their drug abusing, out of control son/daughter as he/she dishes out abuse at them. Whom rush to meet their every need but have been too weak to impose any sought of moral authority.

    Lesson: Don’t mollycoddle your children. It will come back to bite you.

    Damien Spillane

  7. Having a daughter who has had to raise her three daughters as a single mother I know how hard it had been for her. She and the girls have been made very welcome at their parish and in the youth groups etc. However, we have made every effort for the girls to have a solid male figure in their lives with their Pop and an Uncle.
    When God is removed from society, society falls apart and this has happened in England and what we have seen over the past week is the result. Unfortunately Australia is not too far behind them.
    Madge Fahy

  8. Theres so much obvious truth in your article thanks Bill – why is it so hard for some to see it?
    Jan Chapman

  9. Hi Bill,

    Although I agree with everything you and the various commentators put forward as the downsides of fatherlessness, I’m not sure the London riots is a slam-dunk demonstration. Undoubtedly, there would have been some, if not many, fatherless kids roaming around London, we can’t really be sure at this stage. I would imagine someone will do a statistical analysis in the fullness of time because this sort of lawless disorder is pretty rare but until then, we can’t be certain that fatherlessness was a relevant factor.

    We should make sure that these sorts of events don’t just reconfirm any existing biases, reinforcing the view we already have.

    Lee Herridge

  10. What worries me Bill it that despite all the conclusive evidence over a number of years now, our political elite are still heading in the opposite direction. The push for SSM in the ALP is a classic example.

    Good article.
    Peter Coventry

  11. Thanks Lee

    But spare me the “existing biases” line. Not only did I nowhere claim that every kid involved was fatherless, but dismiss everything I say if you wish. It is the English experts who live through this everyday who are arguing for the overwhelming importance of fatherlessness here. They ought to know something about what they are talking about.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  12. In my opinion, this fatherlessness issue is gaining much needed ground. Back on 15.7 Where Are All the Strong Men article, there was quite a bit of interest generated, but not half as much as I would like and I believe GOD would like. No offense to Christine Taylor, praise God for strong Christian women, But it’s not time to take offense, it’s time to look at the big picture.
    My own mum & dad divorced when I was young and this left me very angry. Feelings of the world owning me something – in need of some discipline. I’m 46 now, but I had to go to prison to find God. My journey has hurt me and to my shame I’ve deeply frightened others also. So my point is God can sooth an angry soul but there are steps to take.
    Young boys & girls too, need fathers.
    Daniel Kempton

  13. Great article Bill. Heard you speaking well on Brisbane 96.5 last night. Trouble is, I now have to read all your articles with a Yankee accent !!! LOL. Bit hard for born-and-bred Strine boy loike me, happily raised in a stable family with one mummy and one daddy.
    David Williams

  14. Terrific piece by Peter Hitchens on the riots;

    “Say to him that naughty children should be smacked at home and caned in school, that the police (and responsible adults) should be free to wallop louts and vandals caught in the act, that the police should return to preventive foot patrols, that prisons should be austere places of hard work, plain food and discipline without TV sets or semi-licit drugs, and that wrongdoers should be sent to them when they first take to crime, not when they are already habitual crooks, and he will throw up his well-tailored arms in horror at your barbarity.

    Say to him that divorce should be made very difficult and that the state should be energetically in favour of stable, married families with fathers (and cease forthwith to subsidise families without fathers) and he will smirk patronisingly and regard you as a pitiable lunatic.

    Say to him that mass immigration should be stopped and reversed, and that those who refuse any of the huge number of jobs which are then available should be denied benefits of any kind, and he will gibber in shock.

    Yet he is ready to authorise the use of water cannon and plastic bullets on our streets (quite useless, as it happens, against this sort of outbreak) as if we were a Third World despotism.

    Water cannon and plastic bullets indeed. What an utter admission of failure, that after 50 years of the most lavish welfare state in the solar system, you cannot govern your country without soaking the citizenry in cold water and bombarding them with missiles from a safe distance. Except, of course, that it is because of the welfare system that this is so.”


    Damien Spillane

  15. Bill, I think some are missing the “unwed mother” and fixating only on the single mother part. Thanks for the wake-up call, America’s dismantling of moral guidelines have affected Americans in more ways than they are even aware of.
    Gerald Keyser, US

  16. We’re not far behind U.K.! My blood boiled watching Q. and A. last night. All the smug, politically correct and ill-informed comments by members of the panel would have been laughable, if not so sad. There they sat, pontificating on matters far outside any areas of expertise they might be able to claim and clearly quite unaware of any research on the best environment for the nurture of children. I had believed Malcolm Turnbull to be a worthwhile political choice for me till he stopped discussing economic wisdom and joined the general rejoicing over the social circumstances of this new little baby coming into the world. I certainly won’t feel happy to vote for him if he leads the Liberals in the future.
    Anna Cook

  17. The really sad thing is not that the government and society don’t want to hear truth, it is the fact that the church doesn’t want to know, judging by the number of divorces amongst so called Christians.
    Roger Marks

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