Monday, December 28, 2015

Broken Homes Are Bad for Children

Don’t say you didn’t know it. One suspects that the thought police will no longer allow us to say it, but the truth is: growing up in a broken home is bad for children.

The Daily Mail reports:

Children who have grown up in broken homes are three times more likely to experience mental health problems, according to a new study.

Research by the University College London found that 6.6 per cent of children living with both biological parents suffered from mental health problems.

This is compared to some 15 per cent of children with a single parent and 18.1 per cent of children living with step-families.

Although the causes are not yet known, experts suggest that the family breakdown can lead to the child falling into poverty or growing up in a high-stress environment.

Well and good. For now, we do not need to know why a child brought up by a single parent or even by step parents will suffer mental health consequences. It is good to recognize that, given the option, broken homes are bad for children. It is perhaps even more interesting to note that living in a family with step parents is even worse than living with a single parent.

The research emphasizes the importance of family stability, of clearly defined and consistent routines. And it puts the lie to the notion that love is enough and that divorce does not harm children. This does not mean that no one should ever divorce, but that those who contemplate such a move should give serious consideration to the effect it will have on their children.

The Daily Mail continues:

‘This study adds to a mountain of evidence that family stability matters and family breakdown can have a damaging effect on the mental health of children,’ Norman Wells, from the Family Education Trust, told The Telegraph.

‘The fact that a growing number of children lack the advantages of being raised by both their biological parents in a stable family unit is not something we can afford to be complacent about.’

Researchers suggest that we revise our views of how we conduct our lives. Those of us who are parents should discard the notion that we should seek personal fulfillment, regardless of the effect it has on other people, especially on vulnerable children:

‘In an age that places great emphasis on personal fulfilment at all costs, this study is a salutary reminder that the personal choices we make can have a lasting impact on others and especially on our children.’

The study – based on more 10,448 11-year-olds in the UK – found that children in step-families were also 19.5 per cent more likely to have tantrums and get into fights than children with both biological parents.

When the study broke down the results by race it discovered that white boys are more prone to being hyperactive and by misbehaving. It also suggested that those who fare the worst in mental health terms are mixed race girls:

Meanwhile, white boys were the most likely to suffer hyperactivity and conduct problems, and mixed race girls were the most likely to suffer from any type of severe mental health problem.


Ares Olympus said...

"Research by the University College London found that 6.6 per cent of children living with both biological parents suffered from mental health problems. This is compared to some 15 per cent of children with a single parent and 18.1 per cent of children living with step-families."

Statistics are often useful, but how do we separate correlation versus causation? We might imagine people who can stay married have higher emotional IQs for adult relationships AND child rearing. And it could be that parents who stay married also delay their first child until they are financially stable, and might space their children better and limit the number of children based on their resources and ability to care. There are many ways to improve the chance of a successful marriage.

And the step-family results looking a bit worse might as well say that women who can't hold a marriage together, but don't have the means to support their children, they jump too quickly into new promising relationships while again not having the skills to handle them, and of course being a step-parent is a tougher role.

The conclusion certainly isn't profound, although it is trouble.
“Every child deserves the best opportunity to realise their full potential and we know that those with well-developed social and emotional skills have a better chance of being happy and healthy adults. That is why it is so important to tackle the inequalities that exist in these vital skills between children from different backgrounds,”

So we have a problem where the government has a vested interest in strong families, but no means of compulsion to ensure strong families, or to prevent children being conceived and born in less than ideal situations. Well, I mean we've got family planning, but if people want to be idiots, and be less than ideal parents by whatever measures, reproductive freedom is one of those things God himself gave us, even gave 13 year olds, although we do try to set minimum standards.

It would be interesting, if society can judge 13 year olds as unready for parenthood, what's so special about 16 or 18 or 21? Why not have a test and ban reproduction from anyone who hasn't proven the skills and means to raise a family?

Of course even if we can prevent unwanted pregnancy, conservatives don't want teens fooling around either, and prefer unwanted consequences to punish young mothers for being naughty. So I guess we have to keep fighting the good fight, and prevent access to contraceptives, and hope the fear of pregnancy is enough to make young people not think with their thingies down below.

Wm Sears said...

The conclusion you give may be correct, but tell me, why is the obvious genetic relationship between parents and children always ignored? That is that the parents' mental instability that causes breakup is passed on to the children.